Milwaukee Bucks (2-5) at Indiana Pacers (8-0)
Only 30 NBA teams have started a season 8-0, and 17 of those 30 went on to win their next game to stay unbeaten. The Indiana Pacers look to become the 18th team to accomplish that feat tonight as they welcome the Milwaukee Bucks to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for a 7:00 p.m. tipoff.
While a 9-0 start would be nice, it is important for the young, but experienced, Pacers to understand every game should be played with the same mentality. A team like Milwaukee, struggling to win ballgames, provides Indiana with a perfect opportunity to not only win their ninth game, but prove they can put a sub-.500 team away without looking ahead to Saturday night’s showdown with the Chicago Bulls in the Windy City.
Milwaukee doesn’t immediately boast a huge scoring threat aside from guard O.J. Mayo. The Bucks’ starting center, Larry Sanders, is out for approximately six weeks with a thumb injury. Not that tonight’s outcome would be much different with Sanders in uniform. Aside from Mayo, the only other serious scoring option in the starting lineup for Milwaukee is longtime veteran Caron Butler. However, assuming Paul George is glued to Butler most of the night, that should not be much of an issue for Indiana.
Three of the five Indiana Pacers starters – George, David West and Roy Hibbert – ought to have big games tonight both offensively and defensively. No chance Butler can slow down an all-star in George. Bucks big men Khris Middleton and Ekpe Udoh barely stand a chance against the bigger and stronger duo of West and Hibbert.
Again, the main focus tonight for Indiana is avoiding a letdown on their home court against a team that could be in the running for a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Paul George will score in the high-20s, low-30s tonight, assuming he attacks the basket aggressively and is knocking down jump shots.
The Indiana Pacers take care of business tonight with the home crowd behind them. I like the blue and gold 102-82.
NOTE: Pacers forward Danny Granger practiced this week but is not likely to see game action this weekend. No timetable has been set on Granger’s return. He hasn’t played in a regular season game since March.