The Indiana Pacers are slumping their way toward the All-Star break, and the last thing they need to see is the NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks. The Pacers will try to catch the Bucks napping and snap a six-game slide when they host Milwaukee on Wednesday.
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All six losses during Indiana's slide came by single digits and five came at home, with Monday's 106-105 setback to the Brooklyn Nets particularly crushing after the team squandered a late lead. "It comes down to the same thing every night: guarding, and you have to execute on the offensive end of the floor," Pacers coach Nate McMillan told reporters. "We had a four-point lead there late. You've got to win that. You've got to score, and you've got to get stops and we didn't do that again." The Bucks are cruising toward the break and ran their latest winning streak to five in a row on Monday with a 123-111 win over the Sacramento Kings despite the absence of superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, who sat out after welcoming his first child. "We definitely feel like we've got one of the best players out there, and he wasn't out there tonight, but we still think we have one of the best teams in the league," fellow Milwaukee All-Star Khris Middleton told reporters. "Teams may think they might still be able to run away when he's not out there, but that's what motivates us to let them know that, 'Hey, we're still a complete team.'"
TIME: 7:30 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN, FS Wisconsin, FS Indiana
ABOUT THE BUCKS (46-7): Middleton delivered 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in Monday's win while point guard Eric Bledsoe stepped up with 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting, eight rebounds and eight assists. Bledsoe's three 3-pointers marked his most since Jan. 11 and the eight rebounds were one shy of matching his season high. Center Brook Lopez put together his first two 20-point outings of the season in the last two contests, going a combined 16-of-25 from the floor and 7-of-9 from beyond the arc while averaging 21.5 points.
ABOUT THE PACERS (31-23): Indiana's slide coincides with the return of former All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, who missed the first 47 games recovering from surgery to repair a torn quad tendon and is still trying to fit in with a team that highlighted offensive balance while starting the season 30-17. Oladipo is averaging 10.8 points but is also averaging 13 field goal attempts while shooting 29.5 percent from the field. "We just have to figure things out," Oladipo told reporters after Monday's loss. "... I don't feel like we were playing free. I feel like guys were out there thinking too much. When you play the game of basketball, if you think too much, you'll outthink the game."
1. Pacers PF Domantas Sabonis collected 23 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds on Monday for his fourth triple-double - all in the last 12 games.
2. The Bucks officially signed PF Marvin Williams on Monday and waived F Dragan Bender.
3. Milwaukee dominated the first two meetings, winning by an average of 23.5 points.
PREDICTION: Bucks 120, Pacers 111 Bet Now
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