What to Watch For: Bucks (17-16)
With its most difficult stretch of schedule in the past, Milwaukee has an opportunity to start to put some distance between its wins column and losses column. The Bucks survived December largely without Jabari Parker, Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders and now Milwaukee will look to thrive in January without them, at least for the time being. What’s going to be the key?
The three, probably. After Parker’s injury, Milwaukee shot 40.1% from behind the arc in the final eight games of December. Brandon Knight, Jared Dudley, Khris Middleton and OJ Mayo all shot better than 40% over this stretch, with the red hot Dudley making nearly 52% of his 3.4 threes per game.
Jason Kidd said earlier this year that the Bucks were a team that needed to win the points in the paint battle, as they weren’t an expert outside shooting team. Without three members of its once deep forward/center rotation, Milwaukee’s offense appears to have shifted gears a bit, with great success. 27% of Milwaukee’s points since December 16th have been generated from behind the arc, to just 19% from the start of the season through December 15th. Increased minutes for smaller lineups featuring Dudley at the four have no doubt helped, but Milwaukee’s improved accuracy has been especially key.
Coming into Friday’s game the Pacers are ranked sixth in the NBA in 3-point percentage defense. Something will have to give.
What to Watch For: Pacers (12-21)
The once mighty Pacers are no longer mighty.
Rather than Paul George, Lance Stephenson, they have been reliant on the likes of Solomon Hill and Rodney Stuckey to create offense. It hasn’t gone well. Coming into Friday night’s game, the Pacers rank 27 in the league in offensive rating, averaging just 101.5 points per 100 possessions. The calvary has arrived, a bit, in the form of recently activated George Hill and less recently activated David West, but Hill has a strained groin and will miss tonight’s game. But really, even with those two now surrounding the back-to-life Roy Hibbert, this wasn’t an offensive group that inspired.
Milwaukee’s defense has been a bit of a roller coaster this season, but with Henson’s recent strong play and the depth to match the surprisingly competent Pacers rotation, this should be a big opportunity for the Bucks at home.
Time – 7:30 p.m. CST TV – FSWisconsin Radio – 620 WTMJ
Bucks: Ersan Ilyasova (concussion; out); Larry Sanders (illness(???); out); Jabari Parker (left knee ACL tear; out); Damien Inglis (post-surgery — right ankle; out)
Pacers: Paul George (oh, that knee; out); George Hill (groin; out); Ian Mahinmi (foot; out); Damjan Rudez (infection; questionable)
Bucks: Brandon Knight – Khris Middleton – Giannis Antetokounmpo – Johnny O’Bryant – Zaza Pachulia
Pacers: Donald Sloan – Rodney Stuckey – Soloman Hill – David West – Roy Hibbert
Choose the Form of the Destructor: C.J. Miles
There are no bad shots for CJ Miles. There are also no good shots by CJ Miles. He shoots and he shoots, often erratically, but sometimes with enough precision to impact a game in a positive manor for the Pacers. He’s had four games with 20 or more points this season and seven with five points or less. He’s a bomb, but whether he’s been detonated in the pre-game, no one ever knows.