MILWAUKEE — The Indiana Pacers will be without a major weapon Wednesday night when they open the new year against the Bucks in Milwaukee.
Guard Victor Oladipo won’t be available for a fourth consecutive game because of soreness in his right knee.
Oladipo leads Indiana with 24.9 points per game on 48.5 percent shooting this season while also grabbing 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists. Without him in the lineup, the Pacers have struggled to replace his production and recorded their second- and third-lowest point totals of the season in losses to Minnesota and Dallas.
“He was doing a lot for us, as far as scoring and leading transition and bringing a kind of leadership role and energy that our guys feed off of,” Indiana coach Nate McMillan said Tuesday. “You know, it’s not only the fans (he energizes) with his playmaking.”
The Pacers have dropped five straight games without Oladipo in their lineup this season and come into Milwaukee with a four-game losing streak overall.
“Our intensity is down from the beginning of the season,” Indiana center Myles Turner said. “I’m not sure if that’s an effort thing or just being tired. I don’t know what it is, but we have to nip it in the bud.”
While the Pacers look to fill Oladipo’s void, the Bucks are starting to return to full strength after playing most of the season short-handed because of a lengthy list of injuries.
Among the group of walking wounded was point guard Matthew Dellavedova, who missed more than a month because of tendinitis in his left knee.
When he returned to action Dec. 19, his minutes were limited as the team eased him back into the rotation. But he played 25 and 29 minutes, respectively, in Milwaukee’s last two games and dished out 19 assists in those contests, marking his highest two-game total since December 2017.
“He’s a student of the game,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said after Dellavedova finished with 10 assists in an overtime loss at Toronto on Monday night. “It showed last night being able to find the open guys and his toughness and getting guys open. We missed that. He makes the game easy with the pass. … He’s one of our best screen-setters, he’s a guy that can find open guys, he’s very unselfish.”
Dellavedova, signed to a four-year contract prior to last season, moved into a reserve role upon rookie Malcolm Brogdon’s emergence as the starter. But he played a similar role while with the Cavaliers and as a reserve in Milwaukee, has been counted on to provide a much-needed spark on both ends of the court.
“Delly, man, Delly he’s a terrific basketball player,” Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe said. “His IQ is off the charts. When he’s in, he just moves the ball, gets everybody involved, keeps everybody on the same page. He’s always talking out there so you need that.”
Milwaukee won three of its four meetings with the Pacers last season with Giannis Antetokounmpo averaging 23.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.0 steals in the series.