The Bucks are riding high after Tuesday’s epic comeback, but on Thursday, they play the Pacers, who just pulled out a come-from-behind victory of their own. The NBA odds still prefer the Bucks.
Jason’s record as of Mar. 23: 59-52-4 ATS, 5-10 Totals, plus-2.15 units ML
Like James McCloud said to his son Fox, never give up. The Milwaukee Bucks trusted their instincts Tuesday night against the Miami Heat, coming back from 14 points down in the fourth quarter to win 89-88 as 2-point home dogs. Khris Middleton hit the dagger three at the buzzer off one of those crazy long clearing attempts, not unlike Robert Horry back in the day. And the crowd went wild.
Nice, but the Indiana Pacers just wove some magic of their own. They had the last laugh against the Washington Wizards Wednesday night; George Hill provided the winning lay-up with two second remaining as Indiana erased a 10-point deficit in the final 6:28 to win 103-101, cashing in as 3-point puppies on the road. Now these two scrappy teams get to meet this Thursday (8:00 p.m. ET) in the only game on the NBA slate. Our NBA odds at press time show Indiana laying up to 1.5 points at the Bradley Center.
Neither of these two monsters of the Midwest has done much for our NBA picks the last couple of weeks. After a very nice run, the Pacers (31-40 SU, 37-31-3 ATS) are just 2-6 SU and ATS in their last eight games. But the bigger concern is in the Land of Cheese and Beer, where the Bucks (35-36 SU, 40-30-1 ATS) are 5-13 SU and 6-11-1 ATS since the trade deadline.
We’ve had plenty to say about Milwaukee’s decision to send Brandon Knight (18.6 PER, plus-2.4 BPM for the Bucks) packing in the 3-way deal that landed Michael Carter-Williams (13.9 PER, minus-2.0 BPM). Tuesday’s game against the Heat was another clunker for MCW: four points on 1-of-4 shooting with four assists and six turnovers. He wasn’t even in the game for the big comeback, having fouled out with 7:41 remaining and Milwaukee down by 10.
That’s when Eryan Ilyasova (15.9 PER, minus-1.0 PER) came in to save the day. He grabbed some rebounds and made a couple of key buckets to spur Milwaukee’s comeback. Bucks coach Jason Kidd may have overreached when it came to the MCW trade, at least in the short term, but Kidd has still proven himself a master of substitution patterns, getting the most out of the talent he’s got as his disposal. He might have some more of that talent on Thursday; Jared Dudley (12.6 PER, plus-0.8 BPM) could make his return after missing six games with a sore back. He’s officially listed as questionable.
The Pacers have some quality coaching of their own in Frank Vogel, and he’s been forced to work with multiple lineups this year after spending most of last season with the same starting five – which really killed them down the stretch. Hill (21.1 PER, plus-4.8 BPM) was the obvious hero Wednesday night, scoring 29 points with nine assists and seven rebounds while playing nearly the entire game; Rodney Stuckey (16.3 PER, plus-0.3 BPM) was out with a strained calf and looks iffy at best for Thursday.
But Hill had some help along the way. Lavoy Allen (16.0 PER, plus-1.6 BPM) made an all-too-rare appearance off the Indiana bench and sank four of his five field-goal attempts – he was the only Pacers reserve to finish the evening in the plus category (plus-8). Allen’s performance was especially big on a night where Roy Hibbert (15.6 PER, minus-1.0 BPM) was limited to zero points in 16 minutes. With Paul George’s season debut still a mystery, it’s going to take some more heroics from unexpected sources if Indiana’s going to get back in playoff position. As far as Thursday’s basketball picks are concerned, we’ll have to take the Pacers despite the short turnaround, but only because we can’t count on Carter-Williams to foul out again.
Free NBA Pick: Take Pacers at 5Dimes