Eastern Conference – No. 6 Pacers vs. No. 3 Bucks

In the 3 vs. 6 matchup in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks clash in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs. Keep reading for a preview and prediction for this series. And make sure you check out our NBA Playoffs Betting Guide, which will serve as the hub for all of our postseason betting content!

Pacers vs. Bucks Series Preview

The betting market has been steadily moving toward Indiana since DraftKings opened Milwaukee as -350 favorites to win this series. DraftKings is now down to -180 after Shams Charania reported that Giannis Antetokounmpo’s status is in doubt for the beginning of the series.

 

Doubt surrounding Antetokounmpo’s status is part of the reason this price moved initially, but doubt about Milwaukee in general is another force at work here.

Top NBA Resources:

The Bucks went 1-4 SU/0-5 ATS in five meetings with the Pacers this season. Indiana scorched Milwaukee’s defense for 122.0 points every 100 possessions in those contests. Five games is a large enough sample size to draw some conclusions from, but both teams are strikingly different from when they last played. The Pacers have since acquired Pascal Siakam, and Doc Rivers is now the head coach for the Bucks. Both changes alter the math when it comes to this series, regardless of Antetokounmpo’s health.

Indiana’s biggest weapon against Milwaukee in the regular season was its transition offense. In five games the Pacers averaged 151.6 points per 100 plays in transition off live rebounds and 16.2 fastbreak points per game. Transition defense has been an issue for the Bucks, but they have improved defensively under Rivers. Since the hiring of Rivers, Milwaukee has allowed 3.6 points fewer per 100 possessions overall and 5.1 points fewer per 100 plays off live rebounds. The ability to defend in transition will be paramount for the Bucks, but the Pacers have changed the way they play offensively since they last met.

Indiana has slowed down its offensive attack since acquiring Siakam. Prior to the trade the Pacers began 33.3% of possessions off a live rebound with a transition play. They averaged 120.0 points per 100 plays. After Siakam joined the team that frequency dropped to 28.5% and their efficiency dipped to 113.7 per 100 plays. That would be the third-worst efficiency mark off live rebounds in the league had Indiana averaged that figure for the season. It is not guaranteed that the Pacers will be able to exploit the Bucks’ shoddy transition defense in this series.

One also has to wonder about the health of Tyrese Haliburton. When these teams played their regular season series, Haliburton was at the peak of his powers. Against Milwaukee, Haliburton averaged 27 points and 11 assists on 53.2% shooting. However, in the 36 games since he returned from a hamstring injury the Pacers star is averaging just 16.9 points and 9.5 assists on 45.4% shooting from the floor and 32.3% on 3-pointers. Haliburton’s play at point guard was the driving force behind Indiana’s success against Milwaukee. If he does not command the defensive attention he once did, this matchup becomes much more manageable for the Bucks.

It is easy to understand any doubt a bettor would have about the Bucks after watching the way they ended the season. The health of Antetokounmpo also looms over the series. If he cannot play in the first game, the probability of the Pacers winning this series increases greatly. 

But, it cannot be ignored that Indiana is far from a perfect team. Haliburton is playing at a much lesser level than the one that allowed the Pacers to dominate the series with the Bucks. They are also a subpar defensive team that has allowed 116.8 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time since acquiring Siakam. 

The market has moved quite a bit from the opening price for the series, so those looking to back Indiana are far behind. It would also be foolish to lay the price with Milwaukee until the status of Antetokounmpo is known. The most likely scenario is that he is not ready for the start of the series, which puts the Pacers in an advantageous position.

Lean: Pacers to win series (+140)

NBA Odds

NBA Betting Splits

NBA Power Ratings

NBA Matchups