The Milwaukee Bucks
play their biggest game of the season Friday night when they travel to Indiana.
The Bucks trail the Pacers by three games for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They have eight games left.
“This is probably do or die for us,” Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut was quoted as saying about Friday night’s matchup, which tips off at 4:05 PT. “This game is everything for us and probably everything for them, too.”
The Pacers are 34-42 following a 111-101 home victory this past Wednesday versus Detroit. The Pacers covered as 6 ½-point favorites. The combined 212 points went ‘over’ the 201-point total.
The win kept Indiana one game ahead of Charlotte, which also is in the mix for the No. 8 seed in the East. Charlotte is 32-42. Milwaukee is 30-44.
Tabbed to battle the Chicago Bulls for first place in the Central Division before the season, the Bucks have had their season derailed by multiple injuries.
It’s taken nearly the entire season, but Milwaukee is at last healthy. Key reserves Drew Gooden and Michael Redd, an NBA All-Star in 2004, finally have returned.
Redd has played a combined 23 minutes during the past two games after missing the past 14 months recovering from two serious knee surgeries. Gooden had 22 points and 11 rebounds in the Bucks’ 104-98 road victory against Toronto this past Wednesday.
Gooden had been out since Jan. 21 because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Point guard Brandon Jennings helped the Bucks cover as 4 ½-point favorites with 25 points against the Raptors. Bogut chipped in with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The combined 202 points went ‘over’ the 190 ½-point total. It was just the fourth time in their last 11 road games that the Bucks have gone ‘over.’ The Bucks rank third in defense holding foes to 92.7 points per game, but are last in points averaging 91.6 per contest and last in field goal percentage at 42.8 percent.
Indiana is 0-22 when failing to score more than 92 points in a game. The Pacers received 20 points from point guard Darren Collison and 17 from Danny Granger in beating the Pistons.
Josh McRoberts had a big game with 15 points and 13 rebounds playing 28 minutes in a reserve role. The big news, though, for the Pacers was the return of Mike Dunleavy. He had missed the previous 19 games with a broken thumb.
Dunleavy, the Pacers’ fourth-leading scorer at 11.1 points per game and maybe their best defender, put up nine points against Detroit. Dunleavy missed six of nine shots from the floor, however, as he was obviously rusty.
The Pacers have now covered in five of their last six games versus Eastern Conference foes. The Pacers are just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games following a straight-up victory.
Milwaukee is 2-1 versus Indiana this season with both victories coming in 2010.
The Bucks nipped the Pacers, 94-90, as 2 ½-point road ‘dogs on Nov. 5. The combined 184 points went ‘under’ the 196 ½-point total. John Salmons led Milwaukee with 22 points with Jennings adding 18. Bogut missed that game due to a migraine headache.
Milwaukee defeated Indiana, 97-95, on Dec. 8 as two-point home favorites when the teams met a second time. The combined 192 points went ‘over’ the 189 ½-point total. The Bucks pulled the game out on a tip-in at the buzzer by Bogut, who finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The Pacers got a measure of revenge downing the Bucks, 103-97, as 2 ½-point road ‘dogs on Feb. 12. The combined 200 points went ‘over’ the 191 ½-point total. Granger scored a game-high 30 points with Collision contributing 22 points.