The Milwaukee Bucks have their first round matchup in the NBA Playoffs set and it’s against a familiar foe in the Indiana Pacers. It’s a matchup that is sure to have a lot of eyes on it due to the fireworks that have occurred between these two teams during the regular season. Once the Bucks learned that the Pacers would be their first round opponent in the NBA Playoffs, head coach Doc Rivers said he felt like his team would be focused as per Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

“Indiana has had our number all year, so perfect opponent,” Doc Rivers said. “Listen, we gotta play somebody and they’re tough. They’ve played great against us. They probably have great confidence against us. We’ll have great focus because we’re going to have to.”

The Pacers won four of their five games against the Bucks this season which included an in-season tournament win. Doc Rivers and the Bucks will have homecourt advantage as the No. 3 seed, but the Pacers are 2-1 this season on the Bucks home floor.

The Bucks and Pacers have developed a mini-rivalry this season

One of the main reasons why this particular playoff series will be one to watch is due to the mini-rivalry that developed during the regular season. Back in December, the rivalry kicked off following some off the court shenanigans involving a game ball.

Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) shoots the ball while Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) defends in the second half at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had set a franchise record 64 points in a regular season game and wanted to keep the game ball to commemorate the occasion. Only it was apparently taken by the Pacers who wanted to commemorate rookie Oscar Tshiebwe’s first NBA career point.

The incident escalated with Antetokounmpo taking over into the tunnel towards the visitor’s locker room after a heated exchange with Pacers players on the court after the game. Antetokounmpo eventually ended up with a ball, but he questioned whether or not it was the actual game ball.

But perhaps the seeds for the rivalry were planted back during the in-season tournament matchup when Tyrese Haliburton used Damian Lillard’s signature ‘Dame Time’ celebratory gesture after hitting a game sealing bucket.

One difference though during all five of the matchups between the Bucks and Pacers is that Doc Rivers was not the head coach yet. Rivers was not hired by the Bucks until late January, when both teams had already completed their season series.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s health lingers over the Bucks leading up to the playoffs

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) grabs his leg in the third quarter and left game against the Boston Celtics with an injury at Fiserv Forum.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

One of the key questions that Doc Rivers and the Bucks face heading into the postseason is the health of Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks franchise guy and perennial MVP candidate suffered a calf strain earlier this week and the team ruled him out for their final three regular season games.

There’s been no word yet as to whether or not the injury could cause Antetokounmpo to miss any games for the team’s first round playoff series. What is a relief for the Bucks and their fans is that he apparently avoided serious injury.

This season, Antetokounmpo has averaged 30.4 points per game, 11.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocked shots with splits of 61.1 percent shooting from the field, 27.4 percent shooting from the three point line and 65.7 percent shooting from the free throw line.