A take on the rivalry brewing between the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers v Milwaukee Bucks
Indiana Pacers v Milwaukee Bucks / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

I want to talk to you, the Milwaukee Bucks and Bucks fans, about something important. I want to talk about the Bucks game against the Indiana Pacers the other night, which the Bucks won.

But first, I want to talk about the Bucks against the Pacers from that tournament thing the NBA came up, which the Bucks lost and still has me confused about basketball. I apologize in advance for calling it the “tournament thing.”

The In-Season Tournament isn’t the NBA Playoffs or anything, but it was an important new tournament which the NBA came up with. It even has a nickname or abbreviation, “IST” and everyone on Twitter uses it. The Los Angeles Lakers ended up winning the IST. That brings me to my point.

A take on the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers from a fan and sports blogger

The IST was just a week ago. At least the last time the Bucks played and lost. The Bucks lost to the Indiana Pacers. It wasn’t a terrible, miserable loss, at least not in the sense that you think. It wasn’t worse than the times they’ve lost to the Miami Heat in the playoffs, which was a terrible and miserable time for Bucks fans.

The score was 128-119, and that isn’t bad. It isn’t bad on paper. It’s still bad, though. It’s the type of bad not made for casuals glancing at the scoreboard or who skipped the IST altogether, but the type for basketball analytics and who watch to provide thorough analysis of the whole game. 

Firstly, it was the fact that this game wasn’t on the Bucks home floor and that everyone totally forgot Bobby Portis was even there to outshine Obi Toppin. Milwaukee loves Bobby. Most importantly, it was when the game got down to the wire and Indiana kept scoring bucket after bucket, and neither Giannis or Dame could do anything about it. It was knowing Giannis scored 37 points in another one of his “greekish freakish” performances, yet the Bucks still lost.

It was when a certain Pacers star made a shot so good that he stole another player’s celebration. How did that feel, Damian Lillard? They asked Lillard about that in the postgame press conference. With a sincere grim look on his face about the loss, he said he understood because it happens all the time, but advised to be humble. I would’ve straight-up tossed a chair in the postgame press conference and told the Pacers I want a rematch at WrestleMania, or see them in the playoffs, but that’s just me.  

Last, but not least, the Bucks lost the NBA’s first In-Season Tournament fair and square. This was an important game in retrospect. Sorta like the playoffs, and not this random thing the organization comes up with and the fans hate and criticize it. It was important enough for the Lakers to win it all, to have LeBron James win an MVP for, and to have them hang up a banner for it.

The IST had rules, and the most important rule was to give the NBA regular season more competition and glamor. This rule, Milwaukee defeated the mere purpose of. It was a competition, and the Bucks let a smaller market even than the city of Milwaukee come in and take everything. “Dame Time” didn’t look up at the clock or anything. You know what they say, however, everything in life is a competition, and life isn’t fair. 

The loss is a bit better and understanding after having a week to think about it. It’s the Indiana Pacers. The Indiana Pacers are good this season. And Tyrese Haliburton. Woof. He is a star, the son of Reggie Miller if you look closely. Even with that in mind, however, this game still could’ve been won. 

Again, the game came down to the wire, and the Bucks barely gave Bobby Portis the ball or let him scream at the Pacers for winning. Portis played 18 minutes and Malik Beasley played more minutes than Khris Middleton, who produced only seven points in those minutes.

Portis reportedly did scream at head coach Adrian Griffin about it. Coach Adrian Griffin likes Beasley it seems, and it shows by the fact that he put him in the starting lineup over Jae Crowder or second-year star MarJon Beauchamp. At least the majority of the starting five scored in double-digits. Those are just the stats. The quality of play and lack of effort on defense was unbearable in the final minutes. 

The Bucks will be hearing this story all season. The importance of closing out important games and their lack of effort on defense. In terms of the defense, it’s uncertain if it is because of effort and that the Bucks have one of the best offenses in the league, so they’re just not going to play the other part or if there is some handbook with actual numbers stating that the Bucks’ defense just isn’t good and nor has it ever been. I don’t think the latter exists, however.

The Bucks have had some great defenders over the years, one is a former Defensive Player of Year and a legend by the name of Sidney Moncrief and another is star point guard who the Bucks just traded, Jrue Holiday. Another is a current Buck, Brook Lopez. So, I’m going with the first. People will have to understand or go watch Sidney Moncrief and Jrue Holiday highlights on YouTube. The Bucks have more of an emphasis on offense now with both Lillard and Antetokounmpo, and are just not going to do anything on the other end of the floor some nights in favor of offense.

Defense in this era of materialism and superstardom gets lost, and we’d much rather watch stars like Curry or Lillard run the clock out until they decide to shoot it. Defense is exciting, however. Also, more important than offense sometimes. What’s a basketball game when the offense is good and the other team is still in the game because you don’t play defense? The worst basketball game is what kind of basketball game that is. This is exactly what happened against the Pacers. 

Another thing the Bucks will be hearing a lot this season and should be cautious of. There is no “I” in team. The city of Milwaukee loves Damian Lillard, and should be proud to have him. Everyone loves Lillard, Dame Time. Portland loved him for years. He is one of the top star players of the past decade in the NBA, and surely a top point guard behind only Steph Curry in my eyes most times.

This means, of course, having the ball in his hands in isolation most nights is mandatory, but this could hurt more than help. The Bucks need an all-around effort most nights, and one man can’t do it all by himself. This is why the Bucks have Lillard and Antetokounmpo, and why the Big 3 even exists. It’s better to have two stars over one. Also, hello then to Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Malik Beasley, and Lillard’s backup Cameron Payne.

It will be fun to watch how Dame Time plays out in Milwaukee every night alongside The Greek Freak, especially in the clutch moments. What will surely help is if the Bucks look on the floor and see that one star is a point guard and the other is 6-foot-11, so figuring out a coexisting offense shouldn’t be hard to figure out. The classic pick-and-roll should work here.

And another thing: The Bucks have to read the playbook and play by the rules. They can’t make up their own offense. This is why Adrian Griffin was hired. His job is to coach, and the Bucks should let him and not the players. Fans in Milwaukee should hope there’s no conflict of interest between who’s the bigger star or getting mad at the coach like those superstar teams do when they get a Big 3. Also, they should hope the clock doesn’t run out and Father Time doesn’t catch up to Lillard, who is 33 and has been in the league for years, since June 28, 2012 to be exact. In the long run, the Bucks will be fine. That brings me to my next point. 

Let’s stick to short-term goals here, Bucks. If the Bucks can’t win an in-season tournament, they can always go back to the drawing boards of the regular season, which is what they did Wednesday night. The beloved hometown Milwaukee Bucks and favorites in the East got a chance to play the Pacers again. It was indeed a Wednesday night. Wednesday’s are great because it’s the middle of the week, Wednesday is considered “Hump Day,” and the Bucks certainly had the hump of the Pacers to get over. The game was on the home floor at Fiserv Forum and not some special IST court. The Bucks won 140-126, and made Bucks fans everywhere happy again.

This game wasn’t nearly as lackluster on defense or offense as the IST. Perhaps, it was the IST’s fault. The fact that the Bucks didn’t win the IST after all of their hard work and dedication this season to get there and being the clear favorites to win says a lot. Fear The Deer.

Back to this game. The game on Wednesday against the Pacers, the second matchup of the season between the two, was an exciting game and the finish when the Bucks won was great. Well, the finish actually wasn’t great and came with all types of drama on a night in the Association where a player was suspended indefinitely for this same reason. We’re getting to that. It was during the whole game, which saw Giannis make history and score the largest points by a single player in Bucks franchise history. He totaled 64 points. 64 points. He also added his usual number in rebounds at 16.

The basketball world was in for a treat from the NBA’s Greek Freak. It was how he achieved his 64 points on the night. Eurostep, Dunk, Pass, Crossover, Repeat. Then, came the fateful end and some Malice At The Palace type situation happened, or what I tweeted and like to call, “Fight At The Forum.” Giannis was at the forefront of that. We’re getting to that. 

This game saw a lot of history being made for the Bucks. They don’t call him “Dame Time” for nothing. Lillard made history by becoming the fifth all-time leader in 3-pointers made. We were told all during the pregame story that Lillard was just a couple 3-point shots away from achieving this feat. He did it, and he passed some great names to do it, namely Kyle Korver who used to shoot with his eyes closed for the Atlanta Hawks. Lillard surpassed him for the fifth spot. That’s history. 

Bobby Portis also got to scream in this game. Portis contributed 19 points to the Bucks win before he got ejected. Shoutout to Bobby. Milwaukee loves Bobby. He deserves his own paragraph.

Now, back to Giannis who had everyone on their P’s and Q’s on Wednesday night, except for an Indiana Pacers assistant coach or Bucks own team security depending on how you look at it. The Pacers clearly didn’t like the 64-point ballgame from The Greek Freak because the ballgame from last night was taken literally and physically. This prompted all of Giannis, in his size and speed, to run to the locker rooms before the buzzer could even clearly sound and everyone in the arena was baffled.

Everyone around the world and on social media was astonished by the event which transpired. Many thought it was something serious to cause a star to run off the court like that. The commentators on call even said it. “It must be an emergency.” It wasn’t until later when things calmed down and it was reported that the game ball had been taken by the Pacers. The Pacers reportedly wanted to give the ball to rookie Oscar Tschiebwe who scored his first points. Bucks fans should think it’s because the Pacers were clearly slighted at the performance of Giannis.   

Whatever the case, the Bucks and Pacers game was intense, and it was intense before the IST. Real basketball fans and sports writers know what this means. This means war. It’s an all-out rivalry now, and the Bucks and Pacers will likely be a playoff matchup in the East. A 7-game series for the championship is better than two or three or four games during the season.

This was a great preview for a playoff matchup, and it’s a good thing for all of the NBA and to comeback from a loss at the IST that the Bucks won in such historic fashion. The Bucks “got their lick back.” It’s a good thing to focus on beating the Pacers and not on any of the larger, overarching ideas in this blog post written by a fan of basketball and sports writer. 

Because who am I and what do I know.

dark. Next. Giannis teammates. Ranking Giannis' 10 best Bucks teammates of all time