Bucks vs. Pacers game ball fight, explained: Why Giannis Antetokounmpo chased coach who stole ball for Oscar Tshiebwe

The Bucks enacted a measure of revenge by beating the Pacers 140-126 on Wednesday after losing to their Eastern Conference rivals in the Semifinals of the In-Season Tournament.

However, Indiana appeared to strike back with a vindictive act of their own which caused the two sides to get into a petty, postgame scuffle.

The tiff between the two teams was caused by Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo wanting the game ball after the victory. It was presumed that the Greek Freak wanted the ball as a souvenir after he scored a career-high 64 points to break Michael Redd’s single-game Bucks scoring record.

The Pacers wouldn’t give him the ball after the contest. A coach took it to his locker room after the game and Antetokounmpo tried to chase him down.

That led to a spat between the two teams in the tunnel. The Pacers insisted that they would not give the ball to Antetokounmpo, and that led him to get heated in an on-court exchange with Indiana star Tyrese Haliburton.

“Go get the f—ing ball!” Antetokounmpo appeared to yell at Haliburton. “You need to go get it.”

Here’s what to know about the drama surrounding the Bucks vs. Pacers game ball and why Antetokounmpo was so hell-bent on getting it.

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Why did the Pacers take the game ball?

Naturally, many were wondering why the Pacers took the game ball in the first place. After all, the game was played in Milwaukee and was won by the Bucks with Antetokounmpo logging a record-breaking performance, so shouldn’t the spoil go to the victors?

Coach Rick Carlisle addressed this during his postgame news conference. He explained that the Pacers wanted a game ball to give to Oscar Tshiebwe after the rookie scored the first points of his NBA career.

“Unfortunate situation,” Carlisle said, bemoaning the scuffle that ensued over the ball. “We don’t need the official game ball. There’s two game balls there; we could’ve taken the other one. But it didn’t need to escalate to that. Really just unfortunate.

“Third game we played these guys within 2 and a half [weeks], three weeks, so things are heated with the competition, and I understand all that. But for it to come into the hallway, it didn’t need to happen that way.”

Antetokounmpo echoed Carlisle, saying that the incident was “unfortunate” during his media availability. He even agreed with the coach that Tshiebwe’s first basket was deserving of a game ball.

“I understand. When you score your first point in the NBA, you want to have the ball or whatever the case may be,” he said.

But Antetokounmpo still believed that the Bucks had a better reason for getting the game ball — and it wasn’t just because he broke a franchise scoring record.

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Why did Giannis Antetokounmpo want the game ball?

According to Giannis, he didn’t want the game ball for himself despite his 64-point outburst. The Greek Freak explained after the game that he was trying to get it so that it could be given to his star teammate Damian Lillard.

Why did Antetokounmpo believe Lillard deserved a game ball? Because the first-year Bucks point guard hit the 2,451st 3-pointer of his career against the Pacers. That moved him into the top five on the NBA’s all-time 3-pointer list, passing Kyle Korver.

So, Antetokounmpo believed that historic achievement should have been honored.

“At the end of the day, you’re talking about the guy that just skipped Kyle Korver in the all-time list,” he told reporters. “In my opinion, we should all stop what we’re doing and appreciate greatness.”

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Did Giannis Antetokounmpo get the game ball?

Antetokounmpo did end up with a ball after the game. However, in an ironic twist, neither team is sure whether it was the game ball.

Carlisle insisted that the Pacers had a reserve game ball, and there is at least one video that appeared to show the Bucks staff collecting the game ball after the contest. But Antetokounmpo truly wasn’t sure whether his ball was used in the game, as he intimated that it felt new during his news conference.

“I have no idea. I’m not going to lie,” he said when asked if he had gotten the ball. “I really don’t know.

“I have a ball, but I don’t know if it’s the game ball. 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’ll take and I’ll give it to my mom, for sure — but I don’t know if it’s actually the game ball.”

Perhaps the two teams will be able to figure out which ball was used and which wasn’t. But if not, Antetokounmpo knows he can’t harbor too much animosity about the situation despite it peeving him.

“It’s OK,” Anteokounmpo said. “Life should continue.”

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Giannis Antetokounmpo most points in a game

Tshiebwe’s first points were an important milestone in the Kentucky product’s career, but it was Antetokounmpo who reached the more impressive feat.

The Bucks star scored a whopping 64 points against the Pacers. That’s the most points he has scored in a single game and it ranks No. 1 overall in the history of the Bucks franchise.

Below is a look at Giannis’ stats from Wednesday’s game:

Stat Total
Points 64
Rebounds 14
Assists 3
Steals 4
Blocks 1
FG% (FGM-FGA) 71.4% (20-28)
FT% (FTM-FTA) 75% (24-32)

And below are the eight career games during which Antetokounmpo has eclipsed the 50-point mark — three of which have come against Indiana:

Date Opponent Points
Dec. 13, 2023 vs. Pacers 64
Jan. 3, 2023 vs. Wizards 55
Nov. 9, 2023 at Pacers 54
Feb. 2, 2023 vs. Clippers 54
March 17, 2019 vs. 76ers 52
Jan. 29, 2023 vs. Pelicans 50
Feb. 15, 2022 vs. Pacers 50
Nov. 25, 2019 vs. Jazz 50

Considering how hard it is to reach 60 points, it’s fair that Antetokounmpo wanted the game ball. Whether it was for himself or Lillard, both reached new heights on Wednesday night.

But alas, he may not have received it. As such, the fate of Wednesday’s game ball will remain an unresolved mystery barring some sort of joint investigation into the matter by the two teams.

But the better course of action for both sides would likely be to move on and pocket some of that animosity for any later-season meet-ups between the budding rivals.

Source : ESPN.com

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