We are down to the final four of the 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Indiana Pacers representing the East side of the bracket in the semifinals. Ahead of the Bucks-Pacers showdown on Thursday, we'll make our Bucks In-Season Tournament semifinals predictions.
The Bucks are now the favorites to win the inaugural NBA Cup after the Boston Celtics fell to the Pacers in the quarterfinals. And once again, the team with the best odds to win (Milwaukee) is facing the team with the worst odds (Indiana). Nonetheless, as the Bucks saw in the quarterfinals, they shouldn't take this Pacers team lightly. Tyrese Haliburton has been playing like an All-NBA superstar this season and his performance on Monday night proved he is ready to showcase his talents on the brightest stage.
Nonetheless, Milwaukee just going to fold. The Bucks more than showed in their 146-122 win over the New York Knicks on Tuesday that they are serious about the In-Season Tournament. Giannis Antetokounmpo almost tallied a near triple-double with 35 points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds and shot 15-of-22 from the field. Damian Lillard added 28 points and made five three-pointers, while Malik Beasley chipped in 18 points on six made triples as the Bucks went a scorching 23-of-38 from beyond the arc.
Milwaukee lost its first encounter with Indiana this season in a game where Antetokounmpo dropped 54 points. Nonetheless, Lillard wasn't available in that game, so his presence could spell the difference this time around as the Bucks look to book their ticket to the In-Season Tournament championship.
Nonetheless, let's move on to our Bucks In-Season Tournament semifinals predictions.
Another 50-ball for Giannis Antetokounmpo
The last time these two teams met, Giannis Antetokounmpo erupted for 54 points, which is the most points any player has scored this season. However, The Greek Freak's masterclass performance went under-the-radar as the Pacers spoiled the night after Tyrese Haliburton made the clutch go-ahead triple to ultimately give them the win.
Nonetheless, with Indiana's lack of resistance defensively, it would not be shocking to see Antetokounmpo dropped another 50-bomb on the Pacers for the second straight game. Giannis has already two other 40-point outings this season and has shot at least 75 percent in each of those games.
With all these budding young superstars like Haliburton emerging this season, Antetokounmpo is quietly in the midst of the best season of his career. The Greek Freak has been on an absolute tear for the Bucks, especially since their turnaround from a 5-4 start to the campaign. Since then, Milwaukee has won 10 of its last 12 games. In that stretch, Antetokounmpo is averaging 31.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.2 blocks while shooting 63.4 percent from the field.
Bucks score 160 points
No team in the NBA has scored at least 160 points this season. The last time one did — well, two of them actually — was when the Sacramento Kings beat the Los Angeles Clippers, 176-175 on February 23rd, 2023. Meanwhile, three teams have gone over the 150-point plateau this season — the Atlanta Hawks, the Boston Celtics, and the Bucks' opponents on Thursday, the Indiana Pacers.
Ironically so, all three games involved the Pacers. Indiana edged Atlanta 157-152 during one of its In-Season Tournament Group Stage games. The Pacers also beat the San Antonio Spurs, 152-111. Meanwhile, Boston shackled Indiana to the tune of a 155-104 beatdown last month.
The Bucks almost became the fourth team to crack the 150 mark on Wednesday, when they came four points shy of doing so. If the Bucks managed to do that against a Knicks squad that ranks 7th in defensive rating and third in opposing points, imagine what they could do to Indiana, which ranks 28th in defensive rating and gives up the most points in the NBA on a nightly basis. With the way they are rolling offensively right now, it wouldn't be shocking to if they actually scored over 160 points against the Pacers.
Bucks just get by the gritty Pacers
The Bucks dominated the Knicks with a 24-point victory en route to Las Vegas. The same won't happen Thursday night when they meet the Pacers at the T-Mobile Arena. These are two of the best offenses in the NBA, so expect a lights out show and a high-scoring affair. However, Milwaukee's stars could prove to be just too much for Indiana. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez, and Khris Middleton have won on the biggest stage of them all, while Damian Lillard is all too familiar with playing in big games. As such, the Bucks should have the edge experience-wise in a neutral environment and should just be able to squeeze by Indiana on their way to the championship round.