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NBA Playoff Preview: Indiana Pacers Vs. Milwaukee Bucks

As the NBA Playoffs are set, there are many interesting matchups in the Eastern and Western Conferences. In the East, the 3-seed Milwaukee Bucks (49-33 record) are matched up against the 6-seed Indiana Pacers (47-35). With both teams looking to win a championship, an upset could be on the horizon when they battle in the post-season.

The Bucks set the NBA world on fire when they traded for All-Star point guard Damian Lillard from the Portland Trailblazers. He was acquired to pair with their superstar Giannis Antetokunmpo (Yee-ON-is Ann-tuh-tuh-KOOM-pow) to contend for a title, and it's had both positives and negatives through the season. Lillard averaged 24.3 points, 7.0 assists, and has shooting splits of 42.4/35.4/92.0% this year. Antetokunmpo averaged 30.4 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game this season, but he will miss the first part of the series. He was injured against the Boston Celtics, and is said to miss the first part of the series with a left calf strain. With their star recovering from an injury, it will take their role players and Lillard to step up in his absence. Khris Middleton is their third option who could be important if he takes a step up. He is averaging 15.1 points, 5.3 assists, and has shooting splits of 49.3/38.1/83.3% this season. They have veteran presence in the post in Brook Lopez, who brings his defense, and three-point shot to the Bucks. He is averaging 12.5 points, 2.4 blocks, and has shooting splits of 48.5/36.6/82.1%. Lopez will likely ramp up his production given Milwaukee's injury struggles. Bobby Portis usually comes off the bench, but will likely start the first few games of the series. He is averaging 13.8 points, and 7.4 rebounds, per game, looking to be the spark plug to give the Bucks energy in this series.

As a team Milwaukee is in the middle of the pack, excelling on offense and poor defensively. They rank sixth in the league in offensive rating with a rate of 117.6, which makes sense because of their offensive firepower. However, they really lack in defense with a rating of 115.0 which ranks 20th in the league. Their defensive struggles paired with Antetokunmpo's injury could spell trouble for the Bucks. If they get caught in an offensive battle, the ending will not be pleasant and their season will be cut short. However, if Milwaukee plays better defense which is expected in the playoffs, they'll have a better chance to win the series. Unfortunately for the Bucks, they are facing an offensive juggernaut in the Pacers.

Indiana has plenty of firepower themselves, and they have the personnel to fuel the engine. Their head coach, Rick Carlisle, is known for an offensive-minded head coach which is how the Pacers are operating. Starring for them is point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who is averaging 20.1 points, 10.9 assists, and 1.2 steals per game this season. Myles Turner is their big man, and he's an all-around big like Lopez for the Bucks. Turner is averaging 17.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, and has shooting splits of 52.4/35.8/77.3%. Before the trade deadline, Indiana made a trade to acquire Pascal Siakam, who has taken them up a level. Siakam is averaging 21.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 41 games with the Pacers. As a team, the Pacers have the second-best offensive rating, with a rate of 120.5. On defense, they are poor, ranking 24th in the league. Indiana has a defensive rating of 117.6, which proves this series is going to be an offensive battle.

The Pacers have the ability to outscore any team, which could pose a problem in the playoffs. However, the Bucks have post-season experience, and players like Lillard who want to win. Every game in the NBA is different, and if Milwaukee tightens up their defense and Antetokunmpo returns in time, Milwaukee can win the series. Unfortunately the Indiana Pacers pose a serious offensive threat that could cause the Bucks major problems. This series could end in a range of 5-7 games, depending on the health of Milwaukee down the stretch. The Bucks and Pacers are sure to provide fireworks in the playoffs while competing for a championship as well.

The first game of the Indiana Pacers-Milwaukee Bucks series starts on 4/21 at 4:00 PM on TNT.


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