Pacers must put the Bucks away early in Game 5 to win the series and advance

With Game 5 providing a perfect chance for the Pacers to win their first playoff series in 10 years, it is important they take care of business early to prepare for round two.
Milwaukee Bucks v Indiana Pacers - Game Three
Milwaukee Bucks v Indiana Pacers - Game Three / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

The Indiana Pacers have a perfect chance to put the Milwaukee Bucks away and they better take it immediately.

After a Game 4 which was far closer than it had any business being, the Indiana Pacers return to the hardwood for their fifth first-round game against the Milwaukee Bucks, and it is easily their biggest one yet. With the Pacers up 3-1, Game 5 presents their first chance to end the series and advance to the second round. Additionally, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard are both doubtful for Tuesday's contest, leaving more hope for Indiana to put it away early.

This, of course, means the Pacers will once against face a depleated Milwaukee Bucks team possessing little offensive firepower outside of Khris Middleton and the occasional Bobby Portis and Brook Lopez performance.

Unlike how they did on Sunday, where the Bucks kept it within striking distance for most of the game until the end, the Pacers should not allow any of that in Game 5. With their history of blowing games to worse teams, now is not the time to return to old habits and repeat a regular season problem.

The Bucks will come out of the gates desperate and aggressive, most likely feeding Middleton early and often, and the Pacers need to adjust accordingly. The main reason why they let the Bucks in Game 4 was the defense, with the Bucks shooting 51% from the field.

This kept them within striking distance for most of the night despite Indiana's near-historic night shooting the basketball. Game 5 presents little room for error, as the Pacers need to play smart defense and continue their hot shooting for four more quarters. Tyrese Haliburton, Pascal Siakam, Andrew Nembhard, and Myles Turner all need to show up early and often to put this one away before it can really get started.

Putting more pressure on the Pacers for Tuesday, is one of the other two playoff games on TNT. Prior to the Pacers/Bucks game, the Knicks host the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5 of their own first-round series, with the winner advancing to the second round to play the winner of Bucks/Pacers.

This is perhaps the main reason why Indiana needs to win it in five, as if the Knicks close out the Sixers in five, they cannot afford to get into that matchup tired and with an extra game or two under their breath. With New York's hustle-friendly play style, they will look to run Indiana up and down the court as much as Indiana will look to do the same.

For Tuesday, Indiana's ideal scenario is finishing off the Bucks early to win the series in five, as well as hoping the Sixers get another win over the Knicks, preferably two, to extend the series as long as possible, thus making the Knicks, or potentially the Sixers tired for the next series.

Additionally, there is always the looming presence of Antetokounmpo and Lillard's potential returns later in the series, with Giannis having made some progress recently, now able to run on a treadmill using his full body weight. It may be a worst-case scenario, but it is quite feasible to see a reality where Indiana blows Game 5, giving Antetokounmpo and Lillard more time to recover, potentially leading to a Game 6 or 7 return for them.


While this is unlikely, the Pacers do not want to try their luck, especially with a series win on the line. It is in everybody's best interest for Indiana to put the most likely hobbled Bucks away early and get an adequate amount of rest for the second round, which will present a much more difficult task than the injured Milwaukee Bucks.