Heading into Wednesday's clash, the Milwaukee Bucks had lost both of their matchups against the Indiana Pacers this season, including one in the In-Season Tournament.
Leading up to the game, at an event for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, Damian Lillard told the attendees that fans would be getting a good game from the Bucks, who were out to "get their lick back." There was clearly some intensity in the arena from the game the moment tipped off, as both of the teams wanted this win badly.
It was a physical, lengthy, and memorable contest, to say the least.
Milwaukee Bucks stars make NBA history, tempers flare in get-back win over Pacers
There was immediately a physical tone set in this game by Milwaukee, primarily brought to the court by Bobby Portis and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Portis was attacking the hoop down low with authority, as was Antetokounmpo. Tempers started to flare when Tyrese Haliburton ran into Antetokounmpo, who answered back with a slight forearm shiver into the guard, which sent him to the ground.
That's not to say that Indiana wasn't physical, as things got out of hand after Aaron Nesmith wrapped Antetokounmpo up around the neck and sent him to the ground on a hard foul. Portis immediately came to his defense, and Thanasis Antetokounmpo tried to as well but was held back by players and staff alike. The skrimish took a while to settle, but play continued.
Portis was soon ejected for receiving his second technical, which was a shame, as he was having a tremendous game. As the leader of the bench and a tone-setter, Portis clocked in 19 points on an efficient 8-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-4 from three, before his ejection. Perhaps this can be the slump-busting performance needed to fuel Portis moving forward.
Without Portis, the game continued, and it was the Antetokounmpo show. The Greek Freak was a dominant force from start to finish, but was primarily good in the fourth, where he scored 26 points en route to helping the Bucks win 140-126. After scoring 58 points total, he left the game with the Bucks holding a comfortable lead but had to come back in after the Pacers went on a big run.
In total, Antetokounmpo finished with 64 points, shooting 20-of-28 from the floor and 24-of-32 from the free throw line. In 2021, Giannis told former Buck Michael Redd that we was going to break his franchise scoring record one day, and he's finally done it. Yet, he did far more than score the ball, as he also tallied 14 rebounds, four steals, three assists, and a blocked shot. Incredible stuff.
Yet, Antetokounmpo was not the only Buck to climb the ranks in the NBA history books, as Lillard made history of his own by passing Kyle Korver for fifth all-time on the all-time 3-pointers made list. Though he shot just 2-of-8 from downtown, Lillard still left his imprint on this game with 21 points and six assists while playing some quality defense.
Andre Jackson Jr. got some solid minutes in this one, and as he typically does, he impressed with high-energy play. The rookie had two points, two assists, and two rebounds, having made his mark all over the place. His lone points of the night came on a ferocious putback dunk, which got the crowd cheering. He needs to continue to get minutes.
Brook Lopez was excellent on the defensive end, having clocked in six blocked shots for the game. After coming in second last season, he's making another strong case for Defensive Player of the Year consideration. At 35 years old, that's simply crazy stuff from Lopez.
The real drama erupted after the final buzzer sounded. The final details are still being ironed out, but there was some confusion about the game ball. As he rightfully should have, Antetokounmpo wanted the game ball after his historic night. However, he believed a Pacers staff member took the ball into the locker room, which sent him and several other Milwaukee Bucks running into the tunnel.
Pacers players were heard in the tunnel commanding whoever had the ball not to give it to Giannis and the Bucks as tension filled the air. Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle said that Indiana's general manager caught an elbow from a Milwaukee player amid all of the chaos.
Apparently, the Pacers wanted the game ball for rookie Oscar Tshiebwe, who scored his first official NBA points. Ultimately, Giannis got a ball, but it is unclear which was the actual game ball and which was the reserve ball. Antetokounmpo said postgame that he feels like he has the reserve ball because it felt like a new ball, so the plot thickened.
Ultimately, it's not great that such a historic night for two NBA legends was overshadowed by a drama-filled postgame, but the Bucks will at least take the win. A rivalry may be brewing between these two Central Division rivals, and it will be must-see television when they meet again this season.
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