Smith hopes to continue his impressive play as the Bucks try to complete a season series sweep of the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers in the back end of a home-and-home set at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Milwaukee moved within a half-game of New Orleans for the coveted fourth spot in the East by beating Indiana 95-86 on Tuesday. The fourth-place team will earn homecourt advantage in the opening round of the postseason.
Smith led the way, scoring a season-high 25 points and pulling down 14 rebounds in the win—the Bucks’ third in as many meetings with the Pacers.
“That’s huge for us,” Smith said. “For us to be up 3-0 on them, that lets us know how good we actually are.”
Smith has scored at least 20 points in four of his last five games. Before last week, his season high was 19.
“Joe Smith just killed us,” said Indiana forward Jeff Foster, who had eight points and 10 rebounds Tuesday. “We didn’t have an answer for him.”
Though the Pacers hold a comfortable 11 1/2 game lead over the New Jersey Nets for the top spot in the conference, a win over the Bucks is something Indiana desperately wants before the season ends.
“We’ve got another shot at them,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s a hell of a challenge because they’re a hell of a team. They’re the toughest team we’ve played. They really are.”
Milwaukee defeated Indiana 93-79 on Oct. 31 at Conseco Fieldhouse and came from behind to win 101-96 on Dec. 26 at the Bradley Center.
The Bucks have not swept a season series from the Pacers since taking all six meetings during the 1981-82 campaign. Indiana has swept Milwaukee twice, with the last coming during the lockout-shortened 1999 season when the teams met only three times.