Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: BMO Harris Bradley Center
After Khris Middleton's buzzer-beater stopped the Milwaukee Bucks' lengthy losing streak, George Hill's driving layup helped the Indiana Pacers slow their late-season fade. Still clinging to sixth place in the Eastern Conference, the host Bucks seek their first back-to-back wins in five weeks Thursday night against a Pacers team looking to grab the final playoff spot in the conference. Milwaukee (35-36) was eight games above .500 and had a 7 1/2-game lead on the sixth seed Feb. 20 before dropping 13 of 16 heading into its home game against Miami on Tuesday. Trailing by 14 in the fourth quarter, the Bucks were in danger of having their advantage sliced to one-half game until Middleton made a 3-pointer at the horn for an 89-88 victory that snapped a six-game slide. Ersan Ilyasova led the way with 19 points and 11 boards for Milwaukee, now two games ahead of the seventh-place Heat." I think we are more or less in the process of learning, right?" said coach Jason Kidd, who took over a team that won just 15 games last season. "We're going to be a young team that plays everyone to one possession." Milwaukee has certainly had those types of contests against the Pacers. Following an 87-81 road win Nov. 4, the Bucks suffered a 94-91 home loss Jan. 2 before falling 109-103 in overtime at Indiana on March 12. The Pacers (31-40) stood in seventh place in the East after topping Milwaukee earlier this month. However, they dropped their next six to slide down to 10th before ending the untimely skid with Wednesday's 103-101 win at Washington. Hill keyed the victory with 29 points - including the go-ahead layup with 2.7 seconds left - to go with nine assists and seven rebounds. He's averaging 22.0 points on 55.9 percent shooting over his past seven games. Despite their struggles, the Pacers can move into sole possession of the last playoff slot with another win over the Bucks." We're in survival mode right now and every game matters," said coach Frank Vogel, who looks to guide Indiana to its 14th win in the last 17 meetings. "This is a group that's been deep in the playoffs and I like our chances." The Pacers, who rank among the league leaders in points allowed per game (97.1), will try to tighten things up after allowing an average of 108.2 in the past six games. They've limited the Bucks to 91.3 in regulation in the three earlier meetings. Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo has totaled 18 points on 6-of-22 shooting in the last two matchups, but he's averaged 17.8 and shot 52.0 percent in his past six overall. Michael Carter-Williams, acquired in a trade at last month's deadline, is averaging 19.8 points in his five career meetings. Last season's rookie of the year had 28 points, eight rebounds and four steals in his first matchup since joining the Bucks. He's looking to bounce back after finishing with four points before fouling out in 26 minutes Tuesday. O. J. Mayo made his return against the Heat following a four-game absence due to a hamstring injury, while fellow reserve Jared Dudley is questionable after missing the past six because of a knee injury. Paul George, Indiana's leading scorer the past two seasons, isn't yet ready to return from a broken leg. Rodney Stuckey, who scored 25 in the last game versus Milwaukee, could miss a third straight game with a sore left calf.
Ersan Ilyasova had a career-high 34 points and the Milwaukee Bucks held off the Indiana Pacers 111-107 on Thursday night. Khris Middleton added 17 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo had 16 for the Bucks. They have won two straight after breaking a six-game losing streak. George Hill missed a potential tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds for Indiana. C. J. Miles scored 26 points, Hill added 24 and C. J. Watson had 23 for the Pacers. They were without forward David West because of an allergic reaction. Milwaukee jumped on Indiana early and led by double-digits for most of the game until the Pacers began to chip away in the fourth quarter, thanks in large part to a flurry of 3-pointers by Hill. Hill hit three 3-pointers in under 3 minutes, the third of which cut Milwaukee's lead to 2 with 5:41 remaining. But Michael Carter-Williams hit a driving layup and was fouled, hitting the free throw to complete the three-point play. Middleton then hit a 3-pointer, putting the Bucks up 100-92. Indiana came back again, cutting the lead back to three on a 3-pointer by Watson and a driving layup by Luis Scola. The Bucks sank four straight free throws and appeared to be on their way to putting the game away, only to have Carter-Williams foul Watson on a 3-point attempt. Watson hit two of three free throws to cut the lead to 4 with 1:31 left. Miles missed a 3-point attempt for Indiana, but officials gave the ball to Indiana on a review of an ensuing out of bounds play. Roy Hibbert then hit a jumper to cut the lead to 2 with 19.9 seconds left. Antetokounmpo was fouled and hit one of two free throws, giving Indiana the ball trailing by 3 with 11.6 left. Hill then missed a frantic 3-point attempt with 1.8 seconds remaining and Jerryd Bayless hit a free throw to seal the game for Milwaukee. TIP-INSPacers: Indiana allowed Milwaukee to shoot 73.7 percent from the field in the first quarter. ... Miles hit three straight 3-pointers in the second. Scola was called for a flagrant-1 after a video review of his foul on Carter-Williams in the third quarter. Bucks: Ilyasova had 17 points in the first quarter, hitting 3 of 4 3-point attempts. Forward Jared Dudley, who missed three games because of back spasms, returned Thursday. . The team did not re-sign forward Chris Johnson after signing him to a pair of 10-day contracts earlier in the month. Kidd expected Johnson to sign with Utah. UP NEXTPacers: Sunday vs. Dallas. Bucks: Saturday vs. Golden State.
PICK WRITE-UP: After a much-needed emotional victory, Milwaukee is also receiving a big boost on the injury front. Reserve shooting guard O.J. Mayo, who had missed four straight games and several others over the past month with a sore hamstring, got his feet wet in a six-minute return against Miami on Tuesday. Forward Jared Dudley, who has been out of the lineup since the previous meeting with Indiana due to a back issue, went through a full practice Wednesday and could return for this one.
PICK WRITE-UP: The Pacers won 103-101 at Washington last night to snap a 6 game slide. The Bucks won a thriller against the Heat at home on Tuesday to halt their own 6 game draught.
Indiana is 2-1 vs. Milwaukee so far this season including a 109-103 OT win back on March 12 in Indianapolis. Rodney Stuckey was a catalyst for the Pacers in that game with 25 points, but will sit this one out due to a calf injury.
Michael Carter-Williams poured in 28 in that March 12th game for the Bucks and I'm looking for another big game from the former Sixer tonight.
A lot of similarities for these teams so I expect a close one, but ultimately I like the home standing Bucks to prevail.
Milwaukee 98 Indiana 95