Injuries Are Robbing Us Of A Great Basketball Rivalry

The basketball gods (or at least the crooked NBA refs) graced us with a Bucks vs Pacers matchup by letting the Bucks slide to the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. We get the Playoff Pacers, and all the drama that comes with the central division matchup I was begging for, but I'm not as excited as I once was. 

No Giannis to start the series, Dame has been limited in practice while saying he won’t be 100% for the rest of the season, Milwaukees pet’s heads are falling off! 

I need the Bucks to be 100% healthy when they play the Pacers. Obviously, Milwaukee's two best players disintegrating before our eyes helps Indiana’s chances of making it out of the first round, BUT I want absolutely zero excuses. You can't shit talk when the other team is missing their 1-2 punch. Now, if the Pacers do win, it’s “Yeah, but …” from Bucks fans, and if the Bucks win it's "told you regular season wins mean nothing, we still own you." The Bucks are suddenly playing with house money. Pacer fans could throw out the excuse than Ben Mathurin (who literally played his best games against the Bucks) is out, but you can't compare Mathurin to Giannis and Dame. Benny is a 2nd year 6th man off the bench, and Giannis and Dame are super stars.


We've got a rivalry simmering between these two teams, and a meeting in the playoffs is exactly what we need to bring that rivalry to a full on boil. It takes more than an essentially meaningless in-season tourney elimination, petty celebration drama, and Practice Ball-Gate to create a rivalry. Was Giannis mad enough to try and fight the entire Pacer's locker room? Yeah, but players even acknowledged it would take a season ending series, or two, to elevate this into a full blown rivalry. 

The Bucks have dominated the Pacers in previous seasons, but I think the bad blood is there after Pacers out of no where dogged the Bucks all season. A back and forth playoff battle, with everyone healthy, would send this over the top. Milwaukee has super stars and a championship that have fans tuning in to watch a small market team, and the Pacers have been high up on people's watch list for their fast pace play, but a legit rivalry would have the entire country tuning in, and caring about these small market teams. 

I understand wanting the Bucks at full strength is most likely a "be careful what you wish for scenario" that will inevitably blow up in my face with a 4-0 sweep like I made the wish on a shriveled cursed monkey's paw, but there is little legitimacy for the Pacers if everyone is hurt. 

Both these teams look drastically different from their last regular season matchup all the way back in the beginning of January, but I think the result of this series will be the same it's been all year. The Bucks have had a better record with Giannis sitting out than they have Dame, but I'm predicting the track meet Pacers beat the banged up Bucks in 6 games, moving on to the conference semi-finals for the first time since the 2013-2014 Paul George era.