Both Indiana and host Milwaukee come into Monday’s Eastern Conference matinee looking to right their respective ships despite key absences.
The Bucks dropped back-to-back matchups in Miami on Thursday and Saturday, struggling to mount much offense with 31-point per game scorer and two-time Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined with knee soreness.
Milwaukee dropped 108-102 and 111-95 decisions to the Heat without the NBA’s third-leading scorer available. The Bucks are now just 5-8 over their last 13 heading into Monday’s contest.
“Jrue (Holiday) got the ball to the middle of the zone some, but … we’ve got to make a few more shots, we’ve got to make a few more plays,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said after Saturday’s setback. “Maybe it’s getting to the free-throw line, maybe it’s getting to the paint.
“We’ve got to play to (players’ in the lineup) strengths,” Budenholzer added.
While the Bucks await word on Antetokounmpo’s availability for Monday, Indiana remains down All-Star candidate and NBA assist leader Tyrese Haliburton.
Haliburton — who dishes 10.2 assists as well as scoring a team-high 20.2 points per game — has missed the last two games with a sprained elbow and knee bruise. The Pacers lost both contests, in addition to the date preceding them at New York.
The three-game skid sends Indiana into Milwaukee on the first date of a four-game road swing.
“We’re integrating guys back into the lineup, we have guys out. There’s growing pains there,” said T.J. McConnell, who flirted with a triple-double at 13 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds coming off the bench in Indiana’s 130-112 loss to Memphis on Saturday.
“No excuse,” McConnell added.
Chris Duarte, who missed 21 games from Nov. 7 through Dec. 16, played his best game since returning to the Indiana lineup with 25 points on Saturday. His performance was a bright spot in a mostly dismal offensive efffort for the Pacers, who shot just 38-of-103 from the floor and 11-of-47 from 3-point range against the Grizzlies.
Those offensive woes extended to Buddy Hield, whose streak of 11 consecutive games scoring in double figures ended with a 2-of-8 shooting, five-point showing against Memphis.
Indiana also played without Myles Turner on Saturday, the result of a back injury. Turner has been sidelined for the entirety of the Pacers’ ongoing slide.
Monday’s status for Turner — who is averaging 17.0 points, a team-best 7.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots per game — could prove pivotal both for Indiana and Milwaukee trying to jump-start their offenses.
Turner’s void in the lane contributed to Memphis scoring 70 points in the paint on Saturday.
The Bucks’ own interior threat, Bobby Portis, comes into Monday’s contest averaging a double-double at 14 points and 10 rebounds per game, primarily coming off the bench. Portis is averaging 2.6 offensive rebounds per game, tops on a Milwaukee team averaging 12.1 offensive boards a contest.
That ranks near the top of the league, while Indiana’s 12.2 offensive rebounds allowed per game are the second-most surrendered by any team.
–Field Level Media