Pacers vs. Bucks in NBA In-Season Tournament semifinals
The Milwaukee Bucks will take on the Indiana Pacers at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada in the semifinals of the NBA-In Season Tournament on Thursday, December 7. The Pacers booked their spot in this game by earning an impressive win over the Boston Celtics in the quarterfinals, while the Bucks blew out the New York Knicks in their game. Now, we’ll see a meeting between two of the league’s more exciting offensive teams. The energy should be infectious in this game, as these teams are both two wins away from winning the first ever NBA Cup.
We didn’t end up getting a showdown between the Celtics and Bucks, but this matchup could provide us with some serious fireworks. The total on this one has gone up since opening at 253.5, which might seem outrageous. But the Pacers have already proven they can cash Overs on numbers like this. And overall, these are two teams that are in the top five in the NBA when it comes to both pace of play and adjusted offensive rating. When they met in Indiana on November 9th, the Pacers earned a 126-124 win as 1.5-point home favorites. But that was a game in which Damian Lillard didn’t play for Milwaukee. Lillard’s presence should help Over bettors tremendously, as Lillard is an elite scorer and a turnstile on the other end of the floor.
The argument against the Over would start with the fact that this should play more like a playoff game than a regular season game, and it’ll also be played early in the day, on a neutral court. All of that suggests that neither team will be all that comfortable here, making it a little harder to score. But I haven’t seen anything from Indiana this season that makes me believe this team is interested in playing a low-scoring game. The Pacers are also facing a team that will be more than willing to try and outscore them in a shootout. So, I think if you’re looking at the total here, the only place to go is the Over. I’m not personally going to play this, but I can’t imagine watching this game and hoping for stops.
As far as the spread goes, this thing opened with the Bucks laying 3.5 and they’re now laying 5/5.5. At that number, I think it’s worth backing the underdog with the points. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s presence on the floor is scary in this specific matchup, as he scored 54 points when these teams last met. But part of that was by design for the Pacers. They played extremely small in that game, rolling out lineups that featured four guards plenty often. Indiana was seemingly okay with Antetokounmpo doing his work around the basket and going to the free throw line. But the Pacers wanted to win the battle from the 3-point line, and they did so by making 20 triples compared to the Bucks’ nine. That likely won’t be as lopsided of a category with Lillard back on the floor, but Indiana knows it needs to get a ton of 3s up and win the math battle. And I generally do think the Pacers will do that, especially after the Bucks shot 23 of 38 from 3 against the Knicks last game. What goes up must come down, so I’m thinking Milwaukee is due for a mediocre shooting performance.
I also do think that this tournament is a little more important to the Pacers than it is the Bucks. Lillard was outspoken about wanting to win $500,000 for his teammates that aren’t as fortunate financially as he is, but the Pacers have more rotation players that will be hungry for that money. That said, I’m expecting Indiana to fight like hell in this game, and we saw some of that in the team’s win over Boston. This Bucks team is playing for an NBA title, not the NBA Cup. And I just wonder if that will manifest itself against a younger team without championship aspirations. Winning this tournament could be the highlight of Indiana’s season.
One last thing that’s hard to ignore is that the Pacers are 15-5 against the spread when playing four or fewer games in 10 days since the start of last season. If you give this team time to rest, it can go out and execute the game plan at a high level. And that plan is to run, run and run some more.
Leans: Pacers +5.5 & Over 253.5