3 Crucial matchups in playoff series between Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers v Milwaukee Bucks
Indiana Pacers v Milwaukee Bucks / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages
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The NBA Playoffs are finally here. After a stumbled regular season, the Milwaukee Bucks will face the Indiana Pacers in the first round, so they will make their first step toward a potential championship run against an old acquaintance. They are a team that has already been in the Bucks' way quite a few times this season.

Milwaukee has played five games against Indiana, only having won one of them, something that would make this seem like a bad matchup. However, a lot has changed since January 3, the last time they met. Adrian Griffin is no longer the team's coach, and the Pacers look a bit renewed after the Pascal Siakam trade, so even if, on paper, these teams should really know each other, that's not quite the case three months after their last encounter.

There are still some matchups that we can mark as potential series-definers, both old matchups that we've already seen and new ones that can twist an old rivalry. Now, we'll try to break down how they can impact the series overall.

Lillard, Haliburton and the pace duel

Tyrese Haliburton was by far the player that gave Milwaukee the biggest trouble during the regular season games.

He scored 28.3 points on average in the four Pacers' wins while shooting 53.8 percent from the floor, and most importantly, he helped his team outrun the Bucks over and over and killed them with fast pace. Fast break points and early-clock buckets were a constant over those games, and Indiana will probably try to make it the case again.

Nonetheless, they're the second fastest team in the league, per NBA.com, and Haliburton is a key part of that, thanks to his great passing abilities. However, his game has dropped off a bit since he got injured in early January, and it is actually a mystery which version of him we'll see during the series.

Damian Lillard, on the other hand, is forced to step up, not only because we're finally at the big stage he was brought for, but also because of Giannis Antetokounmpo's injury. He is going to manage a bigger load and be asked to do a lot both in scoring and playmaking, but, most importantly, his veteran leadership can be the factor that makes the games run at the pace the Bucks want.

The Bucks have been a much slower team with Doc Rivers as a coach (97.85 possessions a game) than they were with Adrian Griffin (102.54), and it's likely they want to keep it that way. Indiana is a team that not only feels pretty comfortable playing at a high pace, but they're also way younger and more athletic, so you'd assume quicker games would go in their favor.

Lillard and Haliburton won't likely match each other on defense, but they will fight to play the game as their team needs it. Transition defense, which has improved a lot since Rivers took the coaching job, can help, too, but if the Milwaukee Bucks don't want these games to get out of their hands, Lillard has to be the one setting the tempo.