The Milwaukee Bucks come into the 2024 NBA Playoffs a far cry from where they began the season. When they added Damian Lillard before the season began, it was thought that with a new Big 3 of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Lillard, the Bucks would be a championship contender. But the Bucks have been an inconsistent team and are limping into their first round series in the NBA Playoffs against the Indiana Pacers with Giannis Antetokounmpo questionable to play due to injury.

The matchup between the Bucks and the Pacers is sure to have a lot of eyes on it due to the fireworks that occurred during the regular season. It began during the in-season tournament when Tyrese Haliburton used Damian Lillard’s signature ‘Dame Time’ celebratory gesture after hitting a dagger three point shot.

The budding rivalry continued, coming to a head following a Bucks win that involved the game ball. Antetokounmpo had scored a franchise record 64 points and attempted to retrieve the game ball to commemorate his accomplishment. The Pacers apparently had taken the game ball though to give to rookie Oscar Tshiebwe who scored his first NBA point in the same game.

Antetokounmpo exchanged words with several Pacers on the court following the game before bolting towards the locker room arena in search of the ball. While he ultimately retrieved ‘a’ ball, he questioned whether or not it was ‘the’ game ball.

The Pacers have had the Bucks number during the regular season and even without the injury to Giannis Antetokounmpo, are probably coming into this series with a ton of confidence. But that is the X-factor. The Bucks chances in this series are going to hinge on Anteokounmpo’s health.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s heath will decide the Bucks fate vs. Pacers

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) sits on the bench with a calf injury in the second quarter against the Orlando Magic at Fiserv Forum.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports


For the second straight postseason, the Bucks chances come to down to the health of their star player. Giannis Antetokounmpo suffered a back injury in the first round of the NBA Playoffs last year against the Miami Heat and was forced to miss two games. The Heat took advantage and closed out the series in five games.

Once again, the Bucks are left wondering when, if at all, they will have Antetokounmpo in the lineup. The early prognosis is that he is supposed to miss a few weeks due to the calf injury. Bucks president Peter Feigin has said that Antetokounmpo won’t be available for Game 1 this Sunday, but Bucks head coach Doc Rivers said it’s still up in the air as per Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

If Antetokounmpo is not able to play at all, that swings the series completely in favor of the Pacers. The Bucks have not looked good since Rivers took over, mustering only a 17-19 record. They lost back to back games to end the regular season to fall out of the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference standings.

There’s always the hope that Damian Lillard can have one of his throwback performances akin to his Portland Trail Blazers days. But he too has been affected by injury issues in recent days.

With Antetokounmpo potentially out of the lineup, that’s 30.4 points per game, 11.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocked shots that the Bucks will be missing. The Pacers have matched up well with the Bucks all year. It’s not a stretch to think they could pull off the upset if Antetokounmpo is unable to play.