NBA Rivalries Are Back! | Giannis Wanted To Take His Ball and Go Home But Pacers Said 64 Points Is Enough

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a career-high and franchise record 64 points on Wednesday night. After the game he was looking for the game ball and what ensued was a possessed two-time MVP who needed to be restrained and calmed down after barging into a locker room and yelling obscenities Do we have a new NBA rivalry?

“I have a ball, but I don’t know if it’s the game ball,” Antetokounmpo said after the game. “It doesn’t feel like the game ball to me. It feels like a brand-new ball. I can tell, I played, what, 35 minutes today? I know how the game ball felt. The ball that I have, which I will take and I’ll give it to my mom, for sure, but I don’t know if it’s the game ball.”

Yes folks, all of this commotion was over a ball.

How Did This All Begin?

The NBA has a new rivalry. The Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks have played in a high-stakes game, the teams don’t like each other, and they’ve both engaged in petty gamesmanship.

This all began early in November when these two teams played their first game and Pacers ascending superstar Tyrese Haliburton hit a late three to sink the Bucks 126-124 despite 54 points from Antetokounmpo.

The next game was earlier this month in Las Vegas in the semifinals of the In-Season Tournament. The Pacers were up 63-51 at the half and then the Bucks came out like a buzzsaw in the third quarter, scoring 43 points. But they only led by three heading into the fourth.

In that last quarter the Pacers and Haliburton destroyed the Bucks, causing all kinds of defensive miscues. Haliburton hit a big three and did the “Dame Time” celebration, which the Bucks’ Damian Lillard made famous as a Portland Trail Blazer. The Pacers won the game and the Bucks didn’t like the celebration.

“For as many times as I’ve done it to people, I can’t be upset when somebody else does it. I think that’s also a sign of respect and acknowledgment for knowing my history, knowing what I do. I didn’t mind it, it was what it was,” said Lillard, following the game. “I’ve also known that when you’re having your moment, it’s important to be careful and be humble… because you just never know how the table turns and it when it’s gonna turn. I respect it. We shook hands after the game. I wasn’t moved by it left or right.”

Clearly Lillard was moved by it. Nothing about the “Dame Time” celebration is humble. That’s the whole deal when the world’s best ballers one up each other. It’s full of ego, testosterone, and machismo.

Growing Contempt

Move ahead to Wednesday night’s game and the Bucks had yet to beat the Pacers, and wanted to exact some measure of comeuppance to the young upstarts.

The game was physical from the start and Antetokounmpo was relentless in attacking the rim and dishing out physical punishment. He went to the free-throw line 32 times in the game.

Antetokounmpo forearm shoved Haliburton in the first quarter, knocking him to the ground, and received a foul. Aaron Nesmith had a hard foul on Antetokounmpo, which caused Bobby Portis to react and go at Nesmith with “crazy eyes.” Antetokounmpo’s brother, Thanasis, had to be “held back” from leaving the Bucks bench.

There was a lot of hullabaloo.

Then the game ball incident at the end of the game, a Bucks win. But it turns out it was a misunderstanding.

As the final buzzer sounded, video confirmed a Bucks’ security team member got a game ball directly from the referee.

The Pacers also had a game ball for their two-way rookie Oscar Tshiebwe, who recorded his first official NBA point. But that was the backup ball. NBA games have two balls for use in competition.

Grown men willing to fight over a ball. Welcome to the start of a new rivalry. The Pacers and Bucks face each other for the final two times this season on Jan. 1 and Jan. 3 in a two-game series.

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