Bucks’ Damian Lillard sends message on Pacers: ‘Not a team to mess with’

During the Indiana Pacers' recent win over the Milwaukee Bucks, Damian Lillard tried sending a message to his team about not messing with their rivals.
Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Damian Lillard
Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Damian Lillard / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages

After a small lull after the In-Season Tournament, the Indiana Pacers are back. They’ve now won four games in a row, with their most recent win coming over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night.

Milwaukee had all their key pieces healthy, with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard leading the charge, but it wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Pacers, whose bench provided some much-needed support.

Indiana’s bench unit helped them charge their way back into the game after the starters struggled. Milwaukee was up by as many as 15 points, but they couldn’t halt the Pacers’ comeback.

After the game, Lillard spoke with Eric Nehm of The Athletic about the messages he was sending his team during the contest.

He spoke at length about their inability to stay ahead of the Pacers, noting that he told his squad that Indiana is not a team they can mess with. (H/t Paolo Songco of Wisconsin Sports Heriocs)

“I was just saying, we had multiple opportunities to extend our lead where we’re up 10, up 12 and then we have a letdown,” Lillard said. “So I was just saying like, ‘Man, this is not a team to play with.’ And I don’t think we were intentionally doing it. But you gotta be able to recognize those things in the middle of the game and handle it, so that you can build that lead and maybe you get it up to 16, 17 and they’re a little more discouraged instead of looking like, ‘Man, we’re right there.’”

Lillard had an extremely rough game against the Pacers on Monday night. The Bucks star ended the night with 13 points, seven rebounds, and five assists while shooting just 3-of-16 from the field and 1-of-9 from behind the three-point line.

The Pacers and Bucks are quickly forming a rivalry. From their meeting in the In-Season Tournament to the incident where Antetokounmpo desperately wanted a game ball, these two teams don’t like each other very much.

Indiana has gone after Lillard briefly, too. At the end of the Pacers’ win over the Bucks in the In-Season Tournament semifinals, Tyrese Haliburton hit the “Dame Time” celebration, subtly mocking Lillard and the Bucks.

Division rivalries have never really been a thing in the NBA, but it’s becoming abundantly clear that these two squads get a bit juiced up when they face off against one another.

So far this season, the Pacers are 3-1 against the Bucks, dominating the matchup against one of the best teams in the NBA, led by two of the league’s biggest stars.

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However, the Bucks will have a chance to get one back against their new rivals on Wednesday night, as the final matchup of the season between these two squads will be on January 3 at 7:00 p.m.