Milwaukee at Indiana
Time: 6 PM CT, NBA TV
Spread: IND -1.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Indiana Pacers have started to cool as losers of six of its past 10. Hosting the 21-17 Milwaukee Bucks Monday night on NBA TV provides a chance to get something going on its homeport. The Pacers are 12-9 at home this season where they are 1.5-point favorites tonight at 6 PM (CT). The over/under is set at 214 points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
For the Indiana Pacers, the story of the season has been the play of 2-guard Victor Oladipo. Oladipo was acquired as part of the deal that sent Paul George to Oklahoma City, and he certainly has found a home—and a niche—back in his home state. Oladipo is a local Indiana Hoosier product, and he has reinvented himself in a Pacers uniform, while currently ranking No. 3 in backcourt All-Star voting. Oladipo has simply done everything better this season, and his shooting percentages have swelled from decent to far more than “just respectable” as a Pacer. While he was never able to fully gain traction in Orlando or OKC, in Indy, he has thrived as a No. 1 option in the offense.
Oladipo is averaging 24.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 49.1 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from three-point range. Most notably, he is finally really attempting threes at the volume he should. Oladipo is taking 6.4 threes per game, and he is seeing 18.1 field goal attempts per night. He has mostly overshadowed Myles Turner, who was thought to be the franchise player after George departed for OKC.
The former Texas big man, Turner, is averaging just 14 points and six rebounds per game, though his rim protection has been exceptional. The Pacers ideally need to get more shots for Turner and get him more involved in its offense, but not at the subtraction of Oladipo’s workload. The method for becoming a major playoff threat is intact in Indy, but Turner must embrace and thrive in a bigger role for the Pacers to be more than a middling .500 type team.
Milwaukee most recently defeated the Washington Wizards, 110-103. Milwaukee is now 21-17 and sits No. 2 in the Central Division standings.
The Bucks have ridden the unparalleled play of superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is looking more and more like a true superstar this season.
The “Greek Freak” is averaging 29.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game while also making a colossal impact defensively where he comes up with 1.67 steals and 1.28 blocks nightly.
Giannis is a two-way player, and perhaps the league’s best, with all due respect to the injured Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, and others. Antetokounmpo’s length and athleticism make him a different kind of x-factor for the Bucks, since he truly can take over a game with his play on either end of the court. His PER of 30.4 is the highest at his position, whatever position that is (sarcasm, yes).
While ostensibly defined as a power forward, he handles the ball as much and much as a point guard, while the Bucks really lack a premier playmaker (Antetokounmpo leads the team in assists). The addition of Eric Bledsoe was a nice injection of talent at the low cost of a misfitting Greg Monroe, and Bledsoe has averaged 18.3 points and 4.4 assists per game as a Buck. Khris Middleton is quietly having an All-Star caliber season with 20.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.
Outside of that top-three pairing, the Bucks also have last season’s Rookie of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon is a stout defender and consistent performer on both ends of the court. Even Tony Snell and John Henson have done well in more clearly defined roles. The Bucks probably are still a little short on depth, but that could change if Then Maker continues to develop into an effective center. The second-year big man is averaging just 4.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, but the eye test reveals a long athletic big man who could eventually be a major factor down the road for Milwaukee.
Even if he is not, even if it takes another offseason to add more depth, the Bucks are a team on the rise on the transcending talents of Antetokounmpo. Injured star Jabari Parker does loom as a possible source of help, but after tearing the same ACL for the second time in his career, updates have been scarce in coming regarding the former No. 2 overall pick.