Less than 24 hours after pulling off one of the seasons wildest victories, the Bucks will be right back at it, hoping to reverse Friday nights result against the Indiana Pacers. In going down 96-103, Milwaukee fell behind 1-2 in the season series against the Pacers, and slipped to within a game of the 8th seed in the East.
Showing steely resolve, they were able to bounce back against a red hot Philadelphia last night, who twice had the them on the ropes and failed to capitalise. Giannis Antetokounmpo bounced back with a vengeance, to finish with 35 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists, while Eric Bledsoe chipped in with 22 points and Jabari Parker 13. It was a much needed home victory by the Bucks who had also lost four straight at the Bradley Center.
The Pacers will also be on the second game of a back-to-back, after notching a crucial road win at Washington to catapult themselves into the 4th seed. Heading into the fourth quarter with a 15 point lead, the Pacers just held on, to eventually finish 98-95 winners. All-Star Victor Oladipo finished with 33 points and 7 rebounds, in an ominous sign for Milwaukee heading into tonight.
Indiana were comfortable 13 point winners the last time Milwaukee came to town, a 37-to-16 first quarter was enough to bury the Bucks as all the starters were warming the bench by the beginning of the last quarter. Antetokounmpo, Bledsoe and Middleton combined to finish 14-for-35, as the Bucks were blown away right from the start.
On the injury front, the Bucks will certainly be questioning the availability of Tyler Zeller, after he took a scary fall during the fourth quarter last night. Attempting to finish a breakaway dunk, Zeller was clipped on the head by the trailing Joel Embiid and lost grip on the rim, crashing to the floor on his back. Zeller reported soreness down his right side and you can expect him to be a game time decision. The Pacers obtained no knew injuries against Washington.
On a second night of a back-to-back, both teams will be seeking a fast start. Milwaukee has been making a habit of getting out of the gates slowly, and giving up yet another early lead could prove a task too tall to overcome. These Central Division rivals both have the same goal in mind heading down the stretch, home court advantage, and tonight will play a big part in how that shakes out.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Fast Start on Heavy Legs: The Bucks used up every ounce of energy they had in the bank to fight back last night. It remains to be seen how severely that will effect them tonight. Major minutes for key players last night was essential in securing the win, but you can expect fatigue to play a major part as tonights game wares on. Giannis (42 minutes), Bledsoe (40), and Middleton (35), in particular carried the load last night for a still shorthanded Bucks squad. The recently acquired Shabazz Muhammad was on the bench last night for the first time, and you can expect him to get some minutes as Joe Prunty attempts to spread the load on his weary squad. A fast start will be vital to Milwaukee’s chances.
- Shutdown Stephenson: The diminutive Lance Stephenson has caused the Bucks all kinds of issues this season. It’s not necessarily his stats that jump out at you. It’s his energy and intensity that are having an impact. A tenacious player, Stephenson is in your face on both ends of the floor. At home, he is constantly trying to rev up the crowd with every minor positive play he makes. He finished with 16 points on Friday night against the Bucks, and several times made run breaking shots to stem the flow. He’s not the superstar he probably thought he was going to be, but he’s an impact player. An impact player that can change the course of a game.
- Rampaging Parker: Jabari Parker is finding his confidence. You can see it, you can feel it, and you sense he is getting closer and closer to taking a game over. Parker scored 13 points last night in 21 minutes while reeling in 7 rebounds. Since returning, he is shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc and is an instantaneous boost off the bench for Milwaukee. It may have been a tactical move by Prunty to limit Parker’s minutes last night. He will be relatively fresh, and it might just be the night that Jabari unleashes. The Bucks would gladly welcome a Jabari breakout performance.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus