Milwaukee Bucks (21-17) at Indiana Pacers (20-19)
The four-game winning streak came crashing to a halt last night as I backed the Atlanta Hawks on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers probably played their best game of the season and won and covered easily. It was nice to finally see some signs of life out of L.A. Will there be more of this to come now that Lonzo Ball is back healthy or was this just a fluky performance against a bad team? We will have to wait and see.
Today I will shift gears from two of the NBA’s worst teams to a couple of the best young up and coming squads, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Indiana Pacers.
The Milwaukee Bucks will travel to Indianapolis to play the Indiana Pacers tonight in a matchup of two teams fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Right now, the Bucks hold the six seed in the East while the Pacers are clinging on to the eighth and final playoff spot. The Bucks have won two of their last three games, including a win over these Pacers on January 3rd.
The Pacers ended the year on a rough skid as they had lost four straight games. They were glad to see 2018 come and are losers of five out of their last six. The Pacers are -1.5-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 214 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Milwaukee Bucks are as much of a one-man show as any team in the league this season. But when your one man is the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, that is good enough to compete for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Giannis was the leading vote-getter out of the gate for the All-Star team this year, and if that holds, he will get to be the captain for the East squad and pick his team, playground style. It is a very cool new format and the Freak has already said if he gets the first pick he is taking King James.
The Greek Freak is having a career year in every way imaginable, and if he can get his team into the playoffs, he will garner a lot of attention for the MVP award. Antetokounmpo is averaging 29 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal and a half, and 1.3 blocks per game. Nobody fills up a box score like the Freak, and he has carried this team on his back all season long. They will need another big performance from him tonight if they are going to pick up a win on the road.
The Indiana Pacers seem to have found the core of talent they are going to be built around moving forward. Victor Oladipo is a budding superstar and is going for 24 points a game along with 5 boards, 4 dimes, and almost two steals a game. And recently acquired Domantas Sabonis is finding his place in the league as a double-double machine, going for 12 points and 8 rebounds a game.
It was hard for the Pacers to trade away the face of the franchise in Paul George, but it sure does look like they got as much as they could have out of that move, and they have the pieces of a contender in place. This team is young and fun to watch, and could very well make the playoffs this year, probably a couple years before many thought they would when they started this rebuilding process.
These teams played five days ago. The game was in Milwaukee, and it was remotely competitive. The Pacers were without their best player in Victor Oladipo, and they got pounded 122-101. Now we just have to ask ourselves is Victor Oladipo and the Pacers home floor worth 23 points? I for one, don’t think so.
Yes, I know playing on the road without your best player is a very tough spot, and you can’t always blame them for not giving a full effort. This is a young, inexperienced team, and they likely took the day off. But who is going to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo? The Freak went wild in that game, scoring 31 points to go with 9 rebounds and 5 assists. I’m not sure having Oladipo back is going to do anything to slow that monster down.
I am going to back the Bucks and their MVP candidate Antetokounmpo, tonight. He has shown he can dominate a game any time he wants, and I expect him to wreak havoc tonight in Indiana. He is just such a matchup nightmare that he is impossible to game plan for. The money line isn’t overly attractive here at just +105, so I will instead take the 1.5 points instead as a little bit of insurance on the road. Give me the Milwaukee Bucks plus 1.5 points on the road tonight in Indiana.