Preview: Bucks at Pacers

The Indiana Pacers will host the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night as both teams try to solidify their spot in the playoff race.

Indiana (38-40) is feeling better about its chances after re-signing Lance Stephenson last week. In the two games since Stephenson’s return, the Pacers took Cleveland to double overtime before losing, then defeated Toronto 108-90 on Tuesday.

“The energy in the building was electric,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “I thought Lance brought that energy to the court.”

Paul George loves having his former teammate back. “That’s my brother,” George said. “Every play, you’re going to get the most out of him.”

George has been on fire, averaging 31.3 points in his last eight games.

“I’m dialed in,” George told Pacers.com. “Whatever it takes to get it, I’m going to work my butt off and try to get us on the right path. Every night I am going to try and put it all out on that floor.”

After the Miami Heat defeated Charlotte on Wednesday, it meant the Pacers, Heat and Bulls were tied for seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. One of those teams will be left out of the playoffs when they begin next week. Both the Heat and the Bulls own the tiebreaker over the Pacers, so Indiana has some work to do.

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Indiana has a favorable schedule after playing Milwaukee, but the Pacers are not looking ahead. The Bucks have dominated the Pacers this season, winning all three matchups by an average of 16 points. The Bucks will be aiming for their first season sweep of Indiana since the 2009-10 season.

“We’ve got to cut down the turnovers,” Myles Turner said. “Every game we’ve played against them, we’ve had a lot of them. We’re playing for something.”

Al Jefferson is listed as questionable for this game, while Glenn Robinson III is still out. For Milwaukee, coach Jason Kidd said Malcolm Brogdon and John Henson are unlikely to play.

Milwaukee is in better shape than Indiana in the playoff picture, but still fighting for position. The Bucks are a half-game ahead of Atlanta for fifth place and two games ahead of the trio of teams previously mentioned. The Bucks had a blistering March, winning 14 of 17 games.

They’re coming off two straight losses, however, including a 110-79 blowout loss to Oklahoma City on Tuesday night.

“We didn’t play well,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “We need to get back to our flow, before these last two games, how we were playing defensively. I believe our effort was really high before these two games.”

Behind Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have an efficient offensive attack. They are second in the NBA in field-goal percentage, shooting 47.5 percent. They’ve averaged 113 points against Indiana this season.

The Pacers are 27-12 at home, while the Bucks have held their own on the road at 18-20.