Pacers, Bucks kick off season series going in opposite directions
The Milwaukee Bucks are fouling way too frequently and now face a re-emerging star who likes getting to the free-throw line.
Paul George looks to extend an impressive scoring streak and keep the Indiana Pacers' resurgence on track in a matchup with the foul-prone Bucks, who want to avoid going winless on a three-game road trip.
These Central Division foes kick off their season series going in opposite directions. While Milwaukee (5-7) has followed a four-game win streak by losing four of five, Indiana (7-5) has put aside an 0-3 start by winning seven of nine as George has rediscovered his All-NBA form.
George has at least 26 points in eight consecutive games, the second-longest streak in franchise history behind Billy Knight's run of 10 games in 1977.
"His work ethic is second to none," coach Frank Vogel said. "His focus is great. He's moving really well. Hard work breeds confidence and he's playing at a high level right now."
Just as he did during a 2013-14 breakout season when he ranked 10th in free-throw attempts, George is consistently getting to the charity stripe. He's among the league leaders with 84 attempts and has hit 84.5 percent of them.
Milwaukee is committing a league-high 23.7 fouls per game and fell to 0-4 when whistled for more than 25 after Thursday's 115-100 defeat to Cleveland.
"I don't know the stat, but we probably lead the league in fouls," coach Jason Kidd said. "So we've been consistent with that. We've gotta figure out a way to stop doing that if we wanna have a chance to beat anybody."
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His team also has a lot to figure out defensively, having allowed 115 points on both games of this trip and a combined 54.6 percent shooting. The Bucks are 0-6 when yielding more than 100 points in regulation.
Indiana has surpassed 100 in three of four as C.J. Miles has stepped up to average 16.0 points, though George remains the focal point offensively. He scored 34 in Wednesday's 112-85 rout of Philadelphia and made five 3-pointers. George is 28 of 55 (50.9 percent) from beyond the arc during his eight-game hot streak.
"I'm definitely playing with confidence right now," he said. "Again, I've been preparing and getting ready. I've been shooting a lot of shots. I know what shots are starting to come my way now."
Milwaukee hopes Jabari Parker can follow a similar path. The No. 2 pick in 2014 missed the final 57 games last season and first four this fall due to a torn ACL, then sat out Tuesday's loss at Washington with a sprained foot. He returned Wednesday to play nearly 31 minutes, scoring 14 points.
Parker, though, grabbed only three rebounds as Milwaukee finished with a franchise record-low 22. The Bucks are averaging a league-low 37.3 and have been outrebounded in all but one game despite the offseason addition of Greg Monroe, who averages a team-high 9.6 boards.
"Everybody gotta get in (for rebounds), but I take accountability," Parker said. "I gotta rebound."
The Bucks also might need 6-foot-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo to help more on the glass, though he did score a career-high 33 points Thursday and is averaging a team-best 18.4.
Antetokounmpo shot 6 of 22 in Milwaukee's two losses to the Pacers last season, compared to 11 of 17 in two wins. Each team won once on the road and at home.