Reaction to Bucks reigniting rivalry with Pacers in first round of the NBA Playoffs

Indiana Pacers v Milwaukee Bucks
Indiana Pacers v Milwaukee Bucks / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages

The final regular season game for the Milwaukee Bucks did not go to plan.

Having ended a losing streak by defeating the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic, the Bucks end the regular season with heavy defeats to the Oklahoma City Thunder and a 113-88 loss to the Magic on Sunday and will now take on the Indiana Pacers in what should be a feisty three-six seed matchup in the Eastern Conference.

Before the game, seeding in the East was still undecided with the Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks all battling for the two through four seeds. A Bucks' loss and Cavs' loss to the Charlotte Hornets ensured they stayed in the four seed, leaving the Knicks with the power to decide whether they or Milwaukee would take the two seed. They took on the Chicago Bulls and having gone to overtime, the Knicks came out 120-119 winners.

If the Bucks remained in the two seed they would have taken on the winner of the Play-In game between the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat. Instead, they drop to the three seed and have to take on the team they have built up a bit of tension with in the Indiana Pacers.

The Bucks finished the season 49-33, and the Pacers were just two games worse off at 47-35. The NBA Playoffs are set to kick-off on Saturday April 20, following the conclusion of the Play-In Tournament between the April 16-19.

Reaction to Bucks resparking rivalry with Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs

Instant reaction to this matchup is the Bucks have so much more playoff experience than the Pacers, and that should be more than enough to get them ahead even without Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is currently dealing with a calf strain.

It is the first time this core of Pacers players have made the postseason, so this will be a real test for them. They will certainly have that confidence and nothing to fear mentality of a young team.

The regular season series between these two really did not go in Milwaukee's favor, as the Pacers took it 4-1. The first game came back in November, with the Pacers winning by two points despite Giannis scoring 54 points and no Damian Lillard available. In this game, the Pacers had three players score over 20, and another three put up double figures.

December was when the tension really started to build, with the Pacers winning 128-119 in the In-Season Tournament semi-final. It led to some honest conversations in the Bucks locker room with then head coach Adrian Griffin. Giannis scored 37, and again, Tyrese Haliburton took advantage over a lackluster backcourt defense from the Bucks, as he scored 27 and added 15 assists.

Only a week later, the Bucks took the win this time off the back of Giannis' franchise record 64-point game, but all the talk was with the game ball following the end of the game. This is where things really started to ramp up between the two teams. In the New Year, they faced off two more times, with the Pacers winning 122-113 and 142-130.

No Giannis is a big loss for the Bucks, but they should have more than enough talent still on that roster. Lillard will need to be on it and lead on offense. The move to bring Patrick Beverley into the backcourt means he will take on the Haliburton assignment and look to keep him quiet unlike in the regular season games. Bobby Portis has played extremely well late on this season and will be needed to keep that up along with those on the bench now taking on a bigger responsibility with their sixth man now starting.

The interesting thing to note here is that the Bucks are yet to play the Pacers with Pascal Siakam since he was acquired by Indiana from the Toronto Raptors. Portis will likely have him from the start, but there is now huge responsibility on Jae Crowder to pick up that assignment with Giannis potentially being out.

The regular season was messy for the Bucks, but that is behind them. Now, it is just them and the Pacers. There is more experience on this roster, and the Bucks have two closers in Lillard and Khris Middleton for those clutch situations. This team is more than capable of handling the Pacers; they just need to put their regular season woes behind them and assert their dominance on the youthful Indiana squad and show them Milwaukee isn't going anywhere.

Miami will take on Philadelphia and Atlanta take on Chicago in the Play-In games on April 17, with the final Play-In game set to take place on April 19. Once that is decided, the playoffs will begin on Saturday April 20.

We are yet to know the schedule of the Bucks' series with the Pacers but stay tuned for more Milwaukee Bucks analysis as the NBA playoffs are now less than a week away.