Indiana (27-19, lost last one) @ Milwaukee (22-25, won last one)
* 98.11 points per game (7th in the NBA) vs. 98.3 points allowed per game (21st)
* 43.7% FG (22nd) vs. 45.1% FG allowed (17th)
* 41.87 rpg (19th) vs. 44.49 rebounds allowed (26th)
*23.21 apg (3rd) vs. 13.98 TO pg (4th)
* 95.61 ppg (17th) vs. 93.04 points allowed (6th)
* 43.6% FG (26th) vs. 43.2% FG allowed (8th)
* 43.26 rppg (8th) vs. 42.24 rebounds allowed (18th)
* 18.07 appg (30th) vs. 14.37 TO pg (11th)
PG-Darren Collison vs. Brandon Jennings
SG-Paul George vs. Monta Ellis
SF-Danny Granger vs. Carlos Delfino
PF-David West vs. Ersan Ilyasova
C-Roy Hibbert vs. Drew Gooden
Washington-Epke Udoh, Beno Udrih, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Indiana-Tyler Hansbrough, A.J. Price, Dahntay Jones, George Hill, Leandro Barbosa
Injuries of note
Tonight Indiana gets another opponent it hasn’t seen yet this year in the Milwaukee Bucks. Indiana and Milwaukee will square off multiple times in April. Currently Milwaukee, like Phoenix last night, needs every win it can get to secure one of the last playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference. Right now the team is rolling. Even before bringing in Monta Ellis, one of the league’s best perimeter scorers, for essentially nothing (they traded Andrew Bogut, potentially out for the rest of the season with an injury), Milwaukee had won six of nine March games. With him the team is 3-1, and has scored 112 points or more in all three wins. While Ellis himself has been more of a distributor than effective scorer (he’s still volume shooting, just not very well) his real positive effect has been the attention he’s drawn away from Brandon Jennings, an elite scorer in his own right. And when both guards are a threat to score, defensive pressure to stop them opens up things for literally everyone else. There really isn’t a whole lot of talent on Milwaukee’s team, but it’s stocked with solid role players and veterans who know how to take advantage of defensive lapses.
Somehow the home officials jobbed the Pacers out of a victory last night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It got so bad late that coach Frank Vogel’s normally “aw shucks” demeanor was shaken to the point of ejection. Now over the past two games, both way too close, Indiana is tied with its opponents. Statistically the Bucks are actually pretty similar to the Washington Wizards in several offensive and defensive categories, though as aforementioned they do score more, and they pass a lot more effectively. But if Indiana gets into a 20-point hole against this Milwaukee team tonight, don’t expect the Pacers to fight their way out of it. Over the last five games the Bucks have averaged nearly 111 points per. While the Pacers have improved their offense in March, they’re generally not known for big scoring nights. Just matching Milwuakee’s output will be a challenge, if the Bucks get into a groove at home.
Normally the chips would be so stacked against Indiana at the tail end of a back-to-back-to-back, following an incredibly discouraging, unfair-seeming home loss, that I’d happily count them out of this one. But Milwaukee is also 1-1 on its own triple-back-to-back, and really isn’t nearly as deep or talented as the Pacers (to be fair, few teams are, at least few are as deep). The things Indiana does well are particularly difficult for teams like Milwaukee to cope with. The Pacers are rigid on defense and methodical on offense, but youthful and energetic enough to always keep an eye open for transition baskets. Indiana’s failure to win some tough, close games this year has almost always had more to do with mental lapses then it has with a lack of roster talent from top to bottom. Indiana needs to put some things together to become a seriously deadly playoff team, and honestly that may not happen this year. But tonight’s game will show fans if the Pacers are worn out and beaten down, or ready to make a name for themselves in the playoffs.
Ilyasova and Gooden have been sneaky good on points/rebounds in stretches this season. In fact, Ilyasova’s arrival and Gooden’s refusal to go away has really been the reason the Bucks have withstood Andrew Bogut’s injury (and probably why they agreed to trade him for more offense). Start both if you have the roster spots. Same with Jennings and Ellis. Ellis hasn’t yet scored 20 as a Buck, but he’ll get there. Probably tonight if Darren Collison is matched up with him for too long.
Danny Granger and Tyler Hansbrough seem to have gotten their respective offensive games back, at least for the time being. Granger has poured in 23 ppg on 50% shooting and nearly three 3PTM per game over the last three. Hansbrough has upped his FG% in March to 46%, a five percent increase on his season average. Neither is a must-start, but Granger should probably be in your lineup, and Hansbrough could be a desperation play in deep leagues if you’re trying to find someone to fill a roster spot.
Someone set us up the bomb. Follow Lucas Klipsch on Twitter @LukeNukem317