Maybe the Milwaukee Bucks can pull out a big win against the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at Conseco Fieldhouse. Maybe they can keep their season alive for at least one more night. They’ve done far more improbable things against the Pacers this season already. It won’t be easy though. Not against a motivated team looking to earn playoff seasoning to better the taste of their future. Does that sound familiar?
These Pacers are not unlike the Bucks of a year ago (read this article and tell me you don’t think of the Bucks circa last season, pluses and minuses), but possibly with an even brighter future than the one Milwaukee dreamed of before Andrew Bogut’s arm injury dumped a bucket of cold water on the franchise.
There are no Pacers over 30 who figure to play a significant role in their immediate future. Though Danny Granger has seen his stock and shooting percentage dip a bit over the past two years, he still gives them, at the very least, the idea of a guy who can close out games. The Pacers have a promising young prospect in Paul George and $30 million in what amounts to dead weight coming off their roster this off-season.
Imagine if Milwaukee had a season slightly better than the one it has had this season, but without the trade for Corey Maggette, the signing of John Salmons or the signing of Drew Gooden. And imagine the Bucks failed to make the playoffs last season and wants that first taste as bad now as they did then. That’s kind of the Pacers right now. Last season’s Bucks youth and optimism, minus last off-season’s acquisitions, plus what could have been this coming off-season’s clearing of bad salaries.
Does that sound like a team this Bucks squad is going to knock off?
Not really. But that’s the other thing about the Pacers. Given that they aren’t as strong as last season’s Bucks, they aren’t exactly a sure bet to win the games they are supposed to win. They haven’t used the second half to notify the rest of the league that they are a young, up and coming squad to be watched. Last month, the month during which the Pacers could have locked down their final playoff spot, they lost to Minnestoa, Toronto, Detroit and Sacramento. They haven’t exactly swept the leg.
But Friday is Indiana’s big chance to make a statement about the final playoff spot. It’s their opportunity to finish off Milwaukee once and for all and make this thing a two team race.
All the while leaving Bucks fans to wonder where their team could be heading this off-season with a lottery pick and two significant expiring contracts.
- Tyler Hansbrough
Hansborough has sputtered a bit over his past six games, but put together the finest month of his career in March. He averaged better than 16 points and seven rebounds while shooting nearly 50% from the field. If ever there was a player born to play in games that hold more meaning than others, it’s Hansborough, with his non-stop motor and penchant for annoyance.
As for the Bucks …
A loss finally puts this season to rest, while a win prolongs their fight another day. A recent up-tick in offensive performance, fourth quarters be damned, gives hope that Milwaukee may be coming around. Defensively, the Bucks can certainly stop the Pacers. They’ve twice bottled the Pacers up reasonable well this season and faired better than reasonably well when Bogut played the second time these teams met, holding the Pacers to sub-40% shooting.
The Bucks absolutely can grab another double-digit lead against the Pacers in Conseco Friday night, there’s just the question about whether or not they can hold on to it and close out an opponent.
Prediction: Bucks 99 – Pacers 90
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook (right sidebar).