Bucks, Pacers Have Postgame “Fracas” Over Game Ball

A shootout between the Bucks and Pacers in Milwaukee on Wednesday night featured several milestones: Giannis Antetokounmpo set a new franchise record with 64 points, Damian Lillard surpassed Kyle Korver for the fifth-most total three-pointers in NBA history, and Pacers rookie Oscar Tshiebwe scored his first career point.

After the final buzzer sounded, fans in Milwaukee were treated to another unique moment: a frantic bid to track down and claim the game ball (Twitter video link).

As Eric Nehm of The Athletic and Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star detail, although there was video showing a Bucks staffer grabbing the game ball at the end of the fourth quarter, Antetokounmpo was certain that the Pacers had taken it with them to their locker room. Following a brief on-court argument, Giannis and a few of his Bucks teammates ran down the tunnel toward Indiana’s locker room in search of the ball.

“It was Oscar Tshiebwe’s first official NBA point,” Carlisle later told reporters. “We always get the game ball. We were not thinking about Giannis’ franchise record. So we grabbed the ball and a couple of minutes later some of their players ended up in our hallway. There was a big, I don’t know what to call it, a fracas, a melee, whatever. I don’t think any punches were landed, but my general manager (Chad Buchanan) got elbowed in the ribs by one of their players. He certainly has a bruised rib and who knows if it’s anything more than that.

“Unfortunate situation. We don’t need the official game ball. There’s two game balls there. We could have taken the other one. It didn’t need to escalate to that. Really just unfortunate.”

After subsequently watching the video that shows a member of the Bucks’ security team taking the game ball from the referee, Carlisle added: “Turns out that their security guy had grabbed the real game ball used in the game initially. They already had it.”

As Carlisle notes, the Pacers did end up with one ball to commemorate Tshiebwe’s night, but they believe they have a reserve ball, rather than the game ball itself. As for Giannis, while he also ended up with a basketball once things calmed down, he’s not convinced it was the one used in the game.

“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,” Antetokounmpo said. “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 actually the game ball.”

Giannis also said that his original goal was to get the game ball for Lillard rather than for himself.

“Dame is fifth of all-time,” he said. “I scored 60. At the end of the day, the ball they gave us, I offered it to Dame. I scored 60, he’s scored multiple times 60, he’s scored 70. He should have the ball. At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s fair. I understand when you score your first point in the NBA, you want to have the ball or whatever the case may be. But the end of the day, you’re talking about the guy who just jumped over Kyle Korver on the list. I feel like we should all stop what we’re doing and appreciate greatness.”

It’s hard to believe that this incident, which was essentially a misunderstanding over a piece of memorabilia, will become a source of genuine bad blood between the two teams. But the Bucks weren’t happy about their loss to the Pacers in the in-season tournament semifinal, and things got a little chippy in the fourth quarter on Wednesday following a hard foul by Aaron Nesmith on Antetokounmpo (video link).

It’s also worth noting that Antetokounmpo – who broke the team’s single-game scoring mark with 3:25 left in the fourth quarter – remained in the game until the final buzzer, despite the Bucks’ double-digit lead. He sealed the 140-126 victory with a dunk with 26 seconds remaining. Carlisle was asked after the game if he was surprised the Bucks star didn’t check out earlier.

“No point commenting on it,” Carlisle said. “I think it’s pretty obvious what the answer is.”

At the very least, the division rivalry between the Bucks and Pacers is getting more interesting than it has been in years. The two teams will face one another again on January 1 in Milwaukee and Jan. 3 in Indiana.

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