There’s a chance Victor Oladipo and Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss each other for the fourth consecutive time this season when the Indiana Pacers visit the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.
The top two teams in the Central Division have met three times previously this season, with the Bucks winning the first two, including once at Indiana.
Both Milwaukee wins came with Oladipo out of the Pacers’ lineup.
Indiana broke into the win column in the season series in the most recent head-to-head at home on Feb. 12, and benefited that night from having Oladipo on the court.
The Bucks, on the other hand, were without Antetokounmpo.
The Pacers will take a four-game winning streak into the finale of the season series, but might be missing Oladipo once again. He was held out of Monday’s win at San Antonio with a sore right knee.
Sitting 15 games out of first place in the division with just 21 to play but with a playoff berth virtually assured, the Pacers have made their intentions clear: They’re not going to rush their star back at this stage of the season.
“Victor is getting better and better. He sat out a full year,” teammate Malcolm Brogdon observed to reporters recently. “Because he’s an All-Star, as good as he is, people expect him to come back at All-Star shape as soon as he gets back. That’s completely unrealistic. Now we’re seeing him just start to scratch the surface.”
Oladipo contributed 13 points to Indiana’s 118-111 home win over Milwaukee last month.
He’s since played three games, sandwiching two absences with an ankle injury, and has seen his scoring improve each game from eight to 15 to 19 points.
Oladipo hit five of his seven shots against the Bucks, which helped Indiana to shoot 52.3 percent in the game. The Pacers had struggled offensively — 32 and 37 percent — without Oladipo in the first two matchups with Milwaukee.
With or without Oladipo, the Pacers could have a bulls-eye on their back when they take the court in Milwaukee.
First off, there’s that win over the Bucks in the most recent meeting. Then there’s the fact that Milwaukee lost its most recent game, 105-89 at Miami.
The Bucks, who have yet to lose two in a row this season, responded to their previous eight defeats with eight wins, averaging a 16.8-point margin of victory.
Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer noted after Monday’s setback that winning and losing each has its own challenges.
“It’s I guess part of what makes coaching either maddening or a lot of fun,” he explained to reporters. “You can always push them to be better and there’s always things we can do better (after wins), and when we lose there’s things that we do well and it’s not all terrible. So hopefully we walk that line of keeping our guys hungry and growing and improving.”
The game at Miami began a six-game, 11-day gauntlet for the Bucks, who also will face the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics.
–Field Level Media