The defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks try to win their seventh straight when they take on the Indiana Pacers on Sunday. The opening tip for this contest is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Milwaukee is coming off a 120-109 road win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. The Bucks improved to 12-8 and are in second place in the Central Division, a half-game behind the first-place Chicago Bulls and two games ahead of the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Pacers also picked up a win in their last contest, 114-97 over Toronto on Friday night, and have won three of their last four. Indiana is 9-12 and in fourth place in the Central, 1½ games behind the Cavaliers.
If you want to bet online, the Bucks are two-point favorites on the road, with the over/under set at 217½ points. The NBA lines have Milwaukee as -130 for a moneyline bet, while Indiana is listed at +110.
Rounding into Form
The Bucks had some struggles early in the season due to injuries and illness, but they’ve been looking like the defending champions of late, getting out to big leads in each of their six straight victories. It was no different against Denver, as Milwaukee jumped to a 24-8 advantage and was never seriously challenged.
“I can’t really give a reason why; I just feel like it’s just comfortable,” Milwaukee guard Jrue Holiday said after Friday’s win about the team’s fast starts. “It’s like that first game when we came out, it felt comfortable playing with everybody being back on the court. We went through some struggles, and that helped us to kind of find a place.”
Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has been the leader for the Bucks, as usual, averaging 27.1 points per game to rank third in the NBA. He’s also fifth in the league with 11.7 rebounds per contest as well as averaging 6.0 assists (18th in the NBA), 1.8 blocks, and 1.2 steals.
The recent Milwaukee surge has come about as forward Khris Middleton has come back from a seven-game COVID-19 absence. The All-Star is averaging 17.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game, though his 3-point shooting has been a little off, as he’s hitting 32.9% from beyond the arc.
Guard Grayson Allen has fit in nicely after coming to the team in the offseason. Allen is averaging 14.2 points while shooting 42.2% from beyond the 3-point line and is the only Bucks player to start every game.
The Pacers are under .500 overall but 6-3 when playing at home. They’ll get a chance to add wins to that home record, as they play just one road game in their next eight contests.
Indiana has a solid 1-2 punch filling up the boxscore in guard Malcolm Brogdon and forward Domantas Sabonis. Brogdon, a former Bucks draft pick, leads the Pacers with 20.7 points and 6.2 assists per game, and he also averages 6.0 rebounds to rank third on the team from his point guard spot.
Sabonis is a threat to put up a triple-double on a nightly basis, averaging 18.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. He’s also solid on the defensive end, leading Indiana with 1.2 steals per game.
Center Myles Turner can be a force on the interior on both ends of the floor. He’s averaging 12.9 points along with 7.6 rebounds and a league-leading 3.0 blocks per game.
Bucks Keep Rolling
Milwaukee is playing with a lot of confidence and with good reason. The Bucks’ stars are playing at their best, which makes it difficult for anyone to beat the defending champs.
In the first meeting between these division rivals, Antetokounmpo was an assist short of a triple-double as Milwaukee won on the road despite Holiday being out with an ankle injury. Antetokounmpo and Middleton combined for 57 points that night, and until Indiana can shut down those two, it will come up short against the Bucks.
When making your NBA picks, take Milwaukee to win and cover on the road.