The Indiana Pacers just lost to the Milwaukee Bucks by 26 points, but all people can talk about after the fact is the post-game activities that involved a free throw, a franchise record in points, and one argument over a misplaced game ball.
While Indiana had a decent run in the first half, building up a solid lead, tonight was not their night as the Bucks exploded for 140 points behind a career-high and franchise-record 64 points by Giannis Antetokounmpo.
While it is important to note that Antetokounmpo shot 32 free throws, the same number as Indiana's entire team, he was getting hacked quite a bit, including this incident during the third quarter where he got tangled up with Aaron Nesmith, igniting a small incident between the Pacers and Bucks benches.
However, the biggest incident came after the game. After the final buzzer sounded, and Antetokounmpo headed back to the tunnel, he mysteriously returned to the court to start arguing with Pacers assistant coach Lloyd Pierce for reasons that were initially unclear.
Soon after, it was discovered that the Pacers had supposedly stolen the game ball that was intended for Antetokounmpo and his career-high, and the Bucks wanted it back.
This was followed by Antetokounmpo and some other Bucks players infiltrating the Pacers locker room in an attempt to get the ball back from Indiana.
There was also footage of Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in the Pacers locker room, where it was unclear what they were arguing about, but Buddy Hield could be heard in the background saying, "Keep that ball."
When asked about this altercation in the post-game interview, Rick Carlisle stated that the Pacers decided to take the ball to celebrate rookie Oscar Tshiebwe's first points in the NBA off garbage-time free throws.
Shockingly, Carlisle also stated that during the skirmish, an unnamed Bucks player hit Pacers General Manager Chad Buchanan with a rogue elbow to the ribs, a move which Carlirle stated had certainly bruised Buchanan's ribs, to add another twist to the story.
Indeed, the Pacers supposedly took the game ball for themselves to celebrate Oscar Tshiebwe scoring his first NBA points, not even thinking about Antetokounmpo's performance in an attempt to give the rookie out of Kentucky his moment in the locker room.
Shortly after, another report came out that Rick Carlisle and the Pacers later found out that they did not, in fact, have the game ball in their possession. They were, in fact, in possession of a reserve ball, and the official game ball was given to a Bucks assistant coach and was in the Bucks' hands the entire time.
Speaking after the game, Tyrese Haliburton sounded quite confused about the whole ordeal but praised the Bucks for taking care of business on their home floor and tried to make sense of the whole misunderstanding.
In the end, this whole ordeal seems to have come off as a big misunderstanding. Tensions were running high through the game, a game in which Bobby Portis was also ejected for bickering with Obi Toppin and the Pacers bench and Antetokounmpo was frustrated with the physical defense of the Pacers.
Despite his career-high 64 points and making franchise history, Antetokounmpo was clearly feeling some type of way about how the Pacers played all night. Tempers got the best of players, and one big misunderstanding led to a non-player potentially suffering injuries and a large, unnecessary scuffle to put the lid on a rather forgettable night of Pacers basketball.
Between Indiana's late-game heroics to beat Milwaukee in their first matchup, Haliburton's late-game celebration and mockery of Damian Lillard during the semifinal matchup of the In-Season Tournament, and tonight's post-game skirmish resulting from a misunderstanding about a game ball, a rivalry could be brewing between the Pacers and Bucks.
With both teams playing in the same division and there being clear animosity between players and fanbases, there could very well be something brewing here. We do not have to wait long to find out, as Indiana plays Milwaukee two more times this season, one on New Year's Day at Fiserv Forum and for the final time two days later back in Gainsbridge Fieldhouse, a game that Tyrese Haliburton and company are sure to have already marked on their calendars.