When the Indiana Pacers and the Milwaukee Bucks meet on Friday night, this will be a game where the injury report matters. The Pacers will be playing without Danny Granger (knee) and likely without David West (back), according to Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star. Ersan Ilyasova (hip) will not be available to the Bucks, Luc Mbah a Moute (toe) is questionable and Monta Ellis is battling illness but could still play, according to Charles Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It suggests a scrappy battle could be brewing in Indy on Friday night (7 p.m. ET).
By dropping the first two of their four regular season contests against Atlanta, the Bucks now would need to take the pair of remaining games just to avoid giving up the head-to-head playoff tiebreaker. Of course, by losing another conference game, Milwaukee has turned the secondary tiebreaker (conference record) into a scarcely beneficial tool as it is.
The Celtics are the only team close enough to matter that has lost the head-to-head tiebreaker against Milwaukee, which means they should become the center of attention for scoreboard watching. The Bucks will (likely) need an extra win over the Hawks or Bulls to pull ahead of them in seeding, and that is becoming less likely by the day just because time is running out to make up ground.
Milwaukee currently trails Boston and Chicago by two games in the standings. They are on course for a first-round meeting with LeBron James and the Miami Heat, which is why Bucks fans have turned their focus to escaping the eighth seed.
Indiana is in a far better position. The Pacers hold the No. 2 post in the East standings and have already clinched a playoff berth. They lead the Knicks by one game, and New York is dealing with injuries to Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony. The Pacers are in a great spot, but they are still struggling to draw fans. Tom Lewis of Indy Cornrows recently addressed George Hill's inflammatory comments that called out Indy fans for not showing for a game against the Lakers:
Following the the [sic] Pacers loss to the Lakers last week (which seems like a month ago now), George Hill made a point to complain about the roar of approval from Lakers fans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse after the Pacers blew a late lead. Hill clarified those comments for the Indy Star after cooling down earlier this week.
I took the comments as no big deal, even though they were misguided at the time. Hill and his teammates wouldn't have heard those cheers had they taken care of business to keep the purple-clad fans quiet. But I also give Hill more latitude in these matters since he is a local player who grew up in the city. He's literally calling out his people for more local support.
Indiana owns the No. 1 defense in the NBA thanks in large part to the contributions of Paul George and Roy Hibbert. The Bucks have their own defensive star in Larry Sanders, but the team ranks just 12th in defensive efficiency. Both teams suffer from offenses in the bottom-third of the NBA in efficiency, and things could be tough without West and Ilyasova on Friday.
The Pacers are 8.5-point favorites at home and the over/under for the contest is set at 191 points, according to Odds Shark. Expect a slug fest in Indy.