Close, but no cigar. That’s what defined the Bucks’ second game on this road trip for as many games, as they were unable to topple the Oklahoma City Thunder after hanging tight throughout. The team will search to move over the hump tonight in Indianapolis against the Pacers.
For the Bucks, Khris Middleton is coming off the game of his life. His 36 points were a new career high, as he went 13-of-22 from the field, including six three-pointers. Giannis Antetokounmpo made a valiant contribution as well, tallying 27 points.
The Bucks are going to need similar efforts from the offensive side of things as they are going up against one of the league’s best defenses in the Indiana Pacers. Indiana allows only 98.5 points per game, which ranks seventh in the league. The Pacers also boast the sixth-best net rating in the league at 3.4, which is the difference between a team’s offensive and defensive rating.
Paul George headlines the scoring outburst for Indiana. His comeback trail is red hot after his nasty injury with Team USA a few summers ago, but he is back and better than ever. The forward is averaging a steady 24.1 points per game, coming in at seventh in the league. If there’s a will, there’s a way with Paul George.
You can’t blink an eye with Monta Ellis either. The former Buck is now Indiana’s shooting guard after signing with them this offseason and still exhibits the ability the put the ball in the hoop whatever way possible. He caresses an extreme capability of slicing through opposing defenses and pulling off whatever circus-manner shot is needed for a score. If not that, he has tremendous court vision and knows the proper time to make a pass.
Considering the multiple ways the Pacers can strike, it becomes an imperative point that the Bucks play aggressive defense, but not too aggressive. In the loss to the Thunder, Oklahoma City attempted forty free throws. Yes, you read that right. Forty free throws. The Bucks could not make a stop without fouling the Thunder players, mainly Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Taking a look at tonight, the Bucks once again play a team with two proven scorers in George and Ellis. To win, the Bucks need defense. But the key with their defense is they need to send a message without fouling. Forty free throws is a straight death sentence.
The Bucks are headed to the tail end of their road trip, and this quite possibly could be their best chance of winning. Yes, they play the Timberwolves following this matchup, but Minnesota can be tough to beat at home. If the Bucks play a smart, intelligent game of basketball while keeping the cogs moving on both ends of the ball, they could eke out a victory in Indianapolis.