Indiana Pacers: Bucks present ideal test for the Turbonis frontcourt

Indiana Pacers, Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis - Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers, Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis - Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

Fresh off a galvanizing win over the Heat, where the Indiana Pacers (1-2) claimed their first victory of the season, the team will welcome the defending champions Milwaukee Bucks (2-1) at home for their first Central Division matchup of the 2021-22 campaign.

The Pacers’ matinee against Miami served as proof, albeit on small sample size, that they can win over the league’s better teams and more importantly, succeed in a slugfest, finally showing an impressive defensive performance after failing to limit their first two opponents to begin the season in losing fashion.

Meanwhile, the Bucks wasted no time making a quick turnaround after being routed by the Heat, beating the youthful San Antonio Spurs on the road behind the heroics of, of course, perhaps the best player in the league today in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee, the inarguable alpha in the Central Division, has had tremendous success against Indiana in recent years, sweeping the Pacers in all three matchups last season with a mean point differential of 18.7 points. Beyond that, the Bucks have emerged as the victor in eight of their last nine meetings with the Blue and Gold.

The defending champs will be a tough, yet interesting test for the Indiana Pacers’ starting frontcourt

The Indiana Pacers can’t viably expect the Milwaukee Bucks to easily succumb to their defense, even if the one they showed against Miami subsists. After all, Mike Budenholzer’s offense has been one of the best in the league in the past three years, finishing in top five twice in offensive rating.

If their game against the Spurs is any indication, the Bucks are likely to start “small” once more, installing the Greek Freak at the 5 with four perimeter players to begin the game with starting center Brook Lopez and backup Bobby Portis injured. With Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and their army of three-point snipers surrounding the reigning Finals MVP, the Pacers’ starting frontcourt will have its hands full on defense.

Sans an extemporaneous starting five change, which is extremely unlikely, Myles Turner will probably be Indiana’s main option at trying to slow down Antetokounmpo. After being virtually inexistent against the Heat due to foul troubles, he has to be a lot smarter guarding the Greek Freak.

While makeshift “walls” on defense, a common scheme against Giannis, could very well be deployed to prevent him from easily piercing through the lane, Turner’s defense will be crucial. However, he has to be more cautious with giving Antetokounmpo a lot of air space, especially with the latter’s much improved jumper.

Meanwhile, Domantas Sabonis has to be comfortable as a help defender while remaining keen to closing out on the perimeter given Milwaukee’s penchant for drive-and-kick actions and their proficiency behind the arc, where they average 14.7 makes per contest. It’s likely that the Bucks will try to exploit him on defense and he has to be at least passable for the Pacers to have a chance.

The Indiana Pacers face an arduous game against the Milwaukee Bucks to even up their record, especially given the defending champs’ walking mismatch steering them, but the Blue and Gold should take this as an opportunity to prove that they can indeed be more than a typical comeback story this season. In that respect, how their frontcourt fares on defense against the Greek Freak could very well dictate if they can notch a win or not.

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