Thursday, June 13, 2024
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NBA Preview: Milwaukee Bucks (5-2) at Indiana Pacers (5-3)

Two Eastern Conference foes playing the second night of back-to-backs face off as the Indiana Pacers oppose the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night in Indianapolis.

Milwaukee comes in off a late comeback win against the visiting Detroit Pistons, 120-118. Notably, the Bucks rallied without Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was ejected early in the third quarter when he received a second technical foul of the night, for staring down an opponent after a dunk.

Damian Lillard stepped up with 34 points — including 18 in the fourth quarter. Bobby Portis added 18 off the bench and Brook Lopez was a force down low, scoring 14 while grabbing six boards and blocking four shots.

Indiana enters after producing yet another impressive offensive performance in a 134-118 home victory over the Utah Jazz.

Aaron Nesmith, Myles Turner and Bennedict Mathurin all scored more than 20, led by Nesmith’s 24 off the bench. There were two key double-doubles as well, with Jalen Smith scoring 16 and grabbing 11 boards and Tyrese Haliburton scoring 16 while dishing out 13 assists.

Halliburton leads the Pacers in points (22.9 per game), assists (11.9) and steals (1.0), while Turner carries the load down low, averaging 8.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.

The Bucks are led by Antetokounmpo’s 24.4 points and nine rebounds per night, while Lillard is second in points at 24.3 and leads with 4.7 assists.

Milwaukee had a 10-game win streak against the Pacers snapped last season, but the Bucks still won the season set 3-1. The Bucks have won every season series since 2018-19.

Milwaukee’s continued success against the Pacers will be dependent primarily on its defense, as Indiana is currently the top offensive team in the NBA this season at 126 points per game.

The Pacers have eclipsed 120 points in each of their past four games, including a 152-point outburst against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday. One reason for the offensive success is the Pacers’ ability to share the ball, as they lead the NBA with an average of 31.1 assists per game.

The Bucks will get some help in the form of Khris Middleton, who is expected to return to the lineup after missing the Wednesday game due to injury management. Middleton is not playing in back-to-back games as he progresses after offseason knee surgery. Thursday will be the first of four games between these division rivals this season.

Milwaukee will be starting a key stretch in which six of its next eight games will be on the road. Indiana, following the matchup with the Bucks, will face the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers in Philadelphia on Sunday and Tuesday.

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