The Indiana Pacers sealed their spot in the playoffs on the last day of the season when they made quick work of the hapless Atlanta Hawks, 157-115, in a game as lopsided as the score line would indicate. This is merely the natural progression for Tyrese Haliburton and the upstart Pacers, as they threatened for a playoff spot as well in 2023, and now, what awaits them is an exciting first round matchup against a Milwaukee Bucks team that may be without its best player in Giannis Antetokounmpo for a few games.

Nothing much needs to be said about the importance of the playoffs. This is where the cream rises to the top and the greats manage to separate themselves from the merely “good”. Now, this is going to be the first playoff berth of Haliburton's career — so why not hype up the Pacers fanbase with an ever so familiar playoff war cry that still echoes around Indianapolis even 23 years after the momentous event.

Following the Pacers' win over the Hawks on Sunday, Tyrese Haliburton channeled his best Jim Mora impression, screaming out his iconic
“playoffs” yell that came in a rant regarding the floundering Indianapolis Colts back in 2001.

Jim Mora's rant made him a cultural icon in Indianapolis, even if the lasting memory of him is his “playoffs” rant and his eruption towards the media following a string of dreadful performances from the Colts that, at the time, gave them their sixth loss of the season in 10 tries. Mora's anger was fueled by the fact that Peyton Manning was very much struggling at the time, and that he lost two consecutive games to his former employer and his son, respectively.

Nonetheless, there is no anger among Pacers fans these days; Tyrese Haliburton and Pascal Siakam give the team a dynamic one-two punch, and the Pacers know the Bucks matchup very well, giving them confidence heading into a new era of playoff basketball in Indiana.

Pacers vs. Bucks, a track meet

The Pacers finished the season with the second-best offense in the association, tailing off after a torrid start but still finishing impressively nonetheless. Their defensive issues have been well-documented this season, setting the stage for a first-round series against the Bucks that should be filled with offensive fireworks.

The Pacers and Bucks rank 24th and 19th, respectively, in defensive rating, highlighting what a struggle it has been for both teams to contain the opposition at times. For Indiana, they'll have a strong chance nonetheless to get to the next round especially if Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn't play or is less than 100 percent in the event that he does suit up.

Antetokounmpo, in five games against the Pacers this past season, averaged an astounding 42.2 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game on 67.6 percent from the field and 78.2 percent from the line (on 17.4 attempts). It may not have led to many wins for the Bucks (the Pacers took the season series convincingly, 4-1), but having the best player in a series matters a lot, especially when Antetokounmpo has proven to dominate Indiana for stretches.

Indiana has since added Pascal Siakam, so at the very least, the Pacers could throw another defensively stout player to try and slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo. Regular season results don't matter much in the playoffs, so there's no way Tyrese Haliburton and company can take the Bucks lightly even if Milwaukee is facing a plethora of issues at the moment.