Milwaukee Bucks: How do they stack up against Eastern Conference rivals?

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 9: (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 9: (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /
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INDIANAPOLIS, IN – FEBRUARY 11: (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – FEBRUARY 11: (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Indiana Pacers

In most discussions of the East’s top teams, the Pacers seem to be simply dismissed out of hand. That won’t be happening in this case.

Indiana is obviously the least talented of the five teams competing for supremacy at the top of the East, and that sense has only been made all the more overwhelming since Victor Oladipo‘s injury. Having said that, the Pacers still have plenty of positives going for them.

The Pacers join the Bucks in the category of the East’s best teams who have avoided major roster overhauls or off-putting internal dramas across the course of the season. In fact, the Pacers have demonstrated remarkable consistency in light of challenges that would have toppled lesser teams.

Indiana is incredibly well-drilled, organized and resolute under Nate McMillan‘s guidance. In short, the Pacers are persistent. They refuse to roll over and die on any given night, and with that considered, why should it be assumed the Pacers will fall away over their final 24 games of the regular season?

There was no realistic route to replacing Oladipo midseason, but signing Wesley Matthews on the buyout market was an excellent pickup.

The Pacers rank second only to the Bucks in terms of defensive rating (104.1), and they’ve maintained almost exactly the same defensive rating (104.2) in their 11 games since Oladipo went down.

Indiana remains the clear underdog out of the Eastern Conference teams battling for homecourt. They may ultimately be found out on talent, but they’re a lot less likely to blow up mentally in a way that wouldn’t be beyond the Celtics, 76ers or Raptors.

The Pacers are unlikely to win the East, but they’re guaranteed to be a tough out in the playoffs.