Indiana Pacers (53-25) at Milwaukee Bucks (14-63)
Location: BMO Harris Bradley Center — Milwaukee, WI
Tip: 8:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. CT
Television: Fox Sports Indiana
Line: IND -2.0
This could be the most meaningless — or the most meaningful — game of the year for the Indiana Pacers. Despite the putrid record of their opponent, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Pacers have a lot on the line tonight in a 8:00 p.m. Eastern tip.
When I say meaningless, I speak of Indiana head coach Frank Vogel’s decision earlier today to sit all five of his starters for tonight’s game in Milwaukee. The timing of this decision, in my opinion, is neither a good or bad decision. Simply put, it is what’s right for the players.
Thus, Vogel is looking not only at the opponent (Milwaukee, currently the worst team in the NBA) as part of his decision, but also the team’s results from the past two-plus months. Indiana began the season 33-7, and has since compiled a 20-18 mark over 38 contests.
Vogel has repeatedly used the words “rhythm” and “worn down” in interviews and press conferences since the Pacers were defeated 88-107 at home Sunday night by the Atlanta Hawks. It was a game in which the starters looked terrible for the first 24 minutes, were benched six minutes into the first quarter and Roy Hibbert sat out the entire second half.
When referencing his usage of “worn down,” Vogel speaks of all five starters and their play on the court of late. He also believes their rhythm is off, and said he decided to sit all five starters for the game in Milwaukee tonight because if he only sat a couple of them, it would mess up their rhythm as a unit.
As far as this game being meaningful, the Pacers still only trail the Miami Heat by one-half game for the East’s No. 1 seed — something Indiana has stated as its primary goal since the start of the season.
As Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star noted, it isn’t like Miami is running away with the top spot. They lost Tuesday night at home to Brooklyn and face off with the Grizzlies tonight in Memphis. A loss to the Grizz, coupled with a potential win by the Pacers, and Indy would regain the top seed in the East.
I could talk about different scenarios all day, but the overall point I’m referring to is simply what the players have stated to be their main objective from the outset, which is achieving the No. 1 seed.
But without further ado, hello Evan Turner. And Chris Copeland… Lavoy Allen… Luis Scola, etc.
Prediction: Starters aside, every guy on the team can expect an increase in minutes tonight. Overall, I believe Indy’s second unit would defeat Milwaukee’s starters 9 times out of 10. That doesn’t mean tonight is one of those nine. Milwaukee snatches the win, 107-96.