A quick overview of the Indiana Pacers/Milwaukee Bucks rivalry after the first round

After their Game 6 win to win the first-round series, the Indiana Pacers record against the Milwaukee Bucks became even more impressive.
Milwaukee Bucks v Indiana Pacers - Game Three
Milwaukee Bucks v Indiana Pacers - Game Three / Dylan Buell/GettyImages
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Regular Season

Indiana's first meeting against the Bucks was on November 9, only the ninth game of the season for Indiana and the eighth for the Bucks. While this was an entertaining affair that involved Indiana almost blowing a double-digit lead to lose in the end only to recover after some late-game heroics, it would not be remembered for much afterward.

Damian Lillard did not play in their first meeting, and although Giannis Antetokounmpo poured in 54 points, the first of many incredible scoring outputs against Indiana this season, it was a rather forgettable game all things considered. Nevertheless, Indiana started off their season series against Milwaukee with a win.

It wasn't until December 7 when tensions between the two teams really started to show. With Indiana being undefeated in the In-Season Tournament and upsetting the Boston Celtics in the quarterfinals, they faced a fully healthy Milwaukee Bucks in the semifinals.

This game was easily one of the most exciting of the year, as Tyrese Haliburton had one of his best performances of the year and capped it off with a fourth-quarter dagger and a mockery of Damian Lillard's "Dame Time" celebration, which got a response out of Lillard after the game. With this win, Indiana advanced to the IST finals and improved to a 2-0 record over the Bucks for the season.

The Pacers and Bucks matched up for the third time just six days later on December 13, and this was when tensions reached an all-time high. This was the game where Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a new career-high and Bucks franchise single-game record of 64 points, but that was widely forgotten because of what happened following the game. Following his performance and the Bucks' 140-126 win, Antetokounmpo and the Bucks rushed to the Pacers' locker room in an effort to get the game ball the Pacers supposedly had.

Initially, Antetokounmpo thought the Pacers took the official game ball to give to rookie Oscar Tshiebwe for scoring his first NBA points, but this was later labeled as a misunderstanding and the official ball was in the Bucks' hands all along.

These postgame antics, along with the Bucks' blowout win meant tensions were at an all-time high for the two teams to meet again, which they would twice more in the season on January 1 and 3. At the time, the Bucks won and Giannis' career high gave them their first win in the season series at 2-1.

The next and final two regular-season meetings between the two teams went in a way nobody expected. After struggling a bit before the end of 2023, the Pacers had two games in three nights against the Bucks and were expected to be taken to their limit.

However, they rolled out two more wins out of these games, with one being a late-game effort by Tyrese Haliburton and the other being a 12-point win in Gainsbridge Fieldhouse. This put the Pacers up in the season series with a final tally of 4-1.

Had the meetings between the two teams ended there, the Pacers would still have significant bragging rights over the Bucks. However, the two teams had somewhat of another battle before the end of the season, which was during All-Star Weekend 2024, held in Indiana.

During this weekend, Damian Lillard bested Tyrese Haliburton to defend his Three-Point Contest crown, but most importantly, won the All-Star MVP over Haliburton after he and Giannis Antetokounmpo seemingly froze Haliburton out of the game, refusing to pass to him and taking every shot possible, especially Lillard.

Naturally, this ramped up excitement even more when Indiana finished as the 6th seed and Milwaukee dropped down to the third seed, which set up a first-round matchup between the two teams.