Bucks look to pull away from playoff-hopeful Pacers
When the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Indiana Pacers at home last Wednesday, Giannis Antetokounmpo referred to it as a double victory, since the Pacers are behind the Bucks in the conference standings.
Milwaukee has a chance to create a little more distance as the two teams meet again Monday in Indianapolis. If recent history means anything, you have to like the Bucks' chances.
Since the beginning of last season, the Bucks have won four of the five head-to-head matchups with the Pacers, outscoring Indiana by an average of 110.2-99.4. In those five contests, the Bucks have shot 52.6 percent from the field and 48.3 percent from 3, while Indiana's percentages have been just 47.1 and 32.0.
One difference in Monday's meeting compared to last Wednesday is that Indiana is expected to have Victor Oladipo, who returned to the Pacers' lineup after missing four games with a sore knee.
A steady player in Orlando and Oklahoma City, where he averaged 15.9 points in four seasons, the shooting guard has blossomed into a superstar since being dealt to Indiana in the Paul George trade, scoring 24.8 points per game and shooting 49.1 percent from the field, both easily career highs.
Oladipo is just one of five players averaging 18+ points and 2+ steals since Nov. 10 (he's at 25.9 and 2.18).
That Nov. 10 date isn't arbitrary -- it was Eric Bledsoe's first game with the Milwaukee Bucks.
As it turns out, Bledsoe joins Oladipo among those five, having averaged 18.3 points and 2.04 steals since arriving in Milwaukee.
Bledsoe, though, actually is more proficient than Oladipo in garnering steals. Bledsoe has a 3.2 steal percentage, which is tied for third in the NBA (minimum 600 minutes) and just one of eight players with steal percentage of 3.0 percent or higher. Oladipo is at 2.7 percent.
Either way, expect both guards to play a big part in Monday's contest.
-- Giannis Antetokounmpo's streak of games with 20+ points is at 28. If he can score 20 or more against Indiana, he'll tie Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the fourth-longest such streak in Bucks history. Abdul-Jabbar also owns the top three: 39, 70 and 71 games.
-- The Bucks are second in the NBA in assist-to-turnover differential at +.29. Milwaukee's ratio is 1.72 while its opponents are at 1.43. Only Golden State (+.37) has a better differential.
-- Milwaukee shot 58.7 percent from the field in its 122-101 victory against Indiana on Jan. 3. It was the highest field-goal percentage for the Bucks versus the Pacers since shooting 59.1 percent on Nov. 30, 1991.
Statistics courtesy STATS and basketball-reference.com