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3 reasons the Milwaukee Bucks should be optimistic for Game 5 vs. Pacers

With their backs against the wall, the Bucks and their fans have every reason to believe.



Dec 11, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Bobby Portis (9) reacts after scoring a basket during the second quarter against the Chicago Bulls at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Bobby Portis (9) reacts after scoring a basket during the second quarter against the Chicago Bulls at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks played Game 4 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series against the Indiana Pacers without Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. Bobby Portis was ejected in the first quarter. Khris Middleton has been hobbled all series by an ankle injury.

And Milwaukee has yet to find an answer for a Pacers offense that finished the regular season No. 1 in the NBA in scoring.

Suffice it to say things have not gone according to plan. The Bucks are facing elimination and are still unsure of the statuses of Antetokounmpo and Lillard.

Despite all those reasons not to be, Milwaukee should be confident and ready to win Game 5.

3 reasons the Milwaukee Bucks should be optimistic about winning Game 5 vs. Pacers

The series returns to Milwaukee

Dealing with the Pacers has been difficult enough, but dealing with a young team feeding off its home crowd made things even tougher for Milwaukee in Games 3 and 4.

The last time Pacers fans got to see their team play in the postseason was in 2019-20 when Indiana was promptly swept by the Miami Heat. The last time the franchise hosted a playoff game was in 2019. The team hasn’t won a playoff series since 2014.

Pacers fans had been waiting for their moment.

But now a young and inexperienced team goes on the road to play a desperate veteran team with its back against the wall. It will be a completely different experience for Tyrese Haliburton and Co. Fiserv Forum will be rocking as Bucks fans try to will their team to win a do-or-die Game 5.

Don’t overlook the effect the home fans will have on Portis, either. He’s a cult hero in Milwaukee. After hearing chants of “Bobby sucks” during both games in Indiana and coming off the ejection, the Bucks crowd will be ready to erupt the second Portis makes an impact.

A depleted Milwaukee Bucks roster hung with Indiana in Game 4

After Portis got the boot, Milwaukee played 23 of 29 non-garbage time minutes with lineups that had never played a second together in the regular season, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic. That included rookie Andre Jackson Jr., the most athletic and explosive player the Bucks have with Antetokounmpo out.

Malik Beasley, who’s fallen out of the starting lineup since Doc Rivers took over as head coach, played almost 35 minutes in Game 4. He scored 20 points and shot 4-of-7 from three. Second-year forward A.J. Green, who averaged 11 minutes per game this season, scored eight points in almost 22 minutes.

Brook Lopez went old school and dominated in the post, scoring 14 of his 27 points in the paint. The Bucks even dusted off 35-year-old Danilo Gallinari, who hit three of his five field-goal attempts.

Still, Milwaukee stuck with the Pacers for most of the night, trailing by just one point early in the second half and single digits early in the fourth quarter. Somehow, that group scored 113 points. The Bucks coaching staff should be encouraged by how those lineups played.

The Pacers have to come back down to Earth from deep

Indiana broke a franchise playoff record by hitting 22 threes in Game 4. Midway through the final period, the Pacers were shooting 53.8 percent from behind the arc on their way to finishing the night 22-of-43 (51.2 percent).

Myles Turner was 7-of-9 from deep. Haliburton hit five threes. Andrew Nembhard was 3-for-4. Aaron Nesmith was 3-for-5.

The likelihood of that happening two games in a row, especially with Game 5 in Milwaukee, is incredibly slim. Had Indiana gone cold at any point in the first three quarters, the Bucks could have grabbed the lead with a bunch of mishmash lineups.

Rivers didn’t rule out a Willis Reed-type return by Antetokounmpo. But even if their two-time MVP can’t go in Game 5, Milwaukee should have every reason to believe it can flip the script on Indiana and extend the series.

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Andrew Hanlon is the Assistant Editor for The Dunk Central. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and has been writing about sports professionally for more than a decade. He started out covering local high school sports before transitioning into a full-time NBA connoisseur. He has been published on FanSided, SBNation and Sportscasting.