Milwaukee has one of their best seasons in decades, finishing second in the Eastern Conference. The Central Division is accounting for five out of the eight Eastern Conference playoff teams, and the Bucks will take on their division opponent, the Indiana Pacers. This Pacers team has a chance to upset the Toronto Raptors this year, and this matchup has me intrigued.
Pacers Starting FIve:
George Hill; 6’3” PG; 12.1 PPG, 3.5 APG
Monta Ellis; 6’3” SG; 13.8 PPG, 4.5 APG
Paul George; 6’9” F; 23.1 PPG, 7 RPG, 4.5 APG
Lavoy Allen; 6’9” PF; 5.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG
Ian Mahinmi; 6’11” C; 8.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG
This lineup is nothing to look twice at. The height/ length does not even come close to that of Milwaukee, and also inside scoring is nothing to worry about, however off the bench Myles Turner and Jordan Hill are more of a presence down there offensively. This lineup will torch the Bucks from long range which the Bucks can not guard to save their lives. Giving up over 9 three point makes per game(4th most), the Pacers shoot 36% as a team from beyond the arc and they will exploit this no doubt. In this starting lineup, they have three offensive playmakers. Along with four excellent defenders, minus Monta Ellis who is undersized at his position. CJ Miles I would also like to bring up, torches Milwaukee. Shooting 43% from three and averaging 20 points per contest off the bench against the Bucks is a huge presence off the bench. Then I come to Paul George. He is back folks, he is back and just as good if not better than ever. Averaging his best numbers of his career( 23.1 PPG, 7.1 FGM, 4.1 APG). As for his defense, he is one of the best defenders in the league, and behind Kawhi Leonard, possibly the second best two-way player in the league.
Matchup to Watch
That brings me to my matchup to watch for the series. Paul George against Jabari Parker. For two teams that play pretty position-less basketball, Jabari Parker spent all of the series guarding Paul George because he asked to. Jabari has been using most of the season trying to up his defensive game and get better. He has been asking Kidd to put him on guys like George. George actually averaged below season average in his three games against Milwaukee, 22 points, but did average 8 rebounds and almost 6 assists in those meetings. Jabari on the other hand averaged just 14.8 points and 4.5 rebounds, so nothing spectacular. Whether or not they keep it that way during the playoffs remains to be seen. However, I would really like to watch how Jabari fairs in his first playoff series, possibly guarding PG13.
How the Bucks Matchup
As I said earlier, the Pacers would go crazy from beyond the arc against this bad perimeter defense. Also, the Pacers guard the three better than most teams in the league, making this already sub-par three point shooting from the Bucks just irrelevant. So now you look into the paint where the Pacers are not spectacular, but also where the Bucks are really not that good at defending either. Guys like George, and then Turner and Hill off the bench would be a fun matchup against Plumlee and Henson(if he is not in foul trouble). The Bucks lead the league in points inside the three point line, so obviously we have the upper hand inside the three point line. The three point defense is what would bring the Bucks down in this series. With a healthy MCW, his above team average defense would definitely help, but still not that big of an impact.
Looking to the Future
In the future folks, this is a very winnable series for the Bucks. With growth from Giannis and Jabari outside the three point line both offensively and defensively, that will make this series look a whole lot different. If we can ride with the Pacers from beyond the arc, then we can dominate them down low. More shooting in our lineup means more space created for Giannis and Jabari to do what the do inside. A few years down the road, Monta Ellis and George Hill are in their mid-30s, Paul George is still in his late 20s and Myles Turner will be an all-star by then. In Milwaukee, Giannis, Jabari and Khris are still in their mid-20s, Giannis and Jabari could be all-stars, the big man situation down low is figured out and we have a man who can guard the point guard position. The Pacers will not be better than a 5 seed with this cast of players a few years from now. This Bucks team could even be a little better than that a few years down the road. If both teams develop to their full capabilities, this could be a very entertaining series in a few years.