Pascal Siakam
(NBAE/Getty Images)

Game Preview: Pacers at Bucks (Game 1)

Sunday, April 21 at 7:00 PM ET at Fiserv Forum

Game Preview

It’s good to be back in the championship race.

Returning to the NBA Playoffs for the first time in four years, the 2023-2024 Indiana Pacers are eager to cause some disruptions in the Eastern Conference.

On Sunday at Fiserv Forum, the sixth-seeded Pacers (47-35) will open a seven-game First Round series against the No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks (49-33).

Indiana went 4-1 against Milwaukee during the regular season, claiming the season series against their Central Division rival for the first time since 2018.

While the Pacers have had success against the Bucks this season, Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle has maintained that previous results should be taken with a grain of salt.

“There's going to be a lot of external noise,” Carlisle said. “ We’ve got to ignore the noise and focus on ourselves and what we need to compete at our best level.”

All the matchups between the Central Division foes were must-see TV, with the Blue & Gold pulling off multiple clutch performances, including a win in the In-Season Tournament Semifinals in Las Vegas.

However, each team has undergone significant changes since they last played on Jan. 3.

On Jan. 18, the Pacers traded for starting power forward Pascal Siakam, and on Jan. 23, the Bucks fired first-year head coach Adrian Griffin and replaced him with Doc Rivers. 

A month later, the Bucks acquired guard Patrick Beverley, and in early March, Indiana lost Bennedict Mathurin for the season on March 9 after a tear in his right shoulder required surgery.

In addition to those major adjustments, the Bucks could be without the face of their franchise going into Sunday.

A significant storyline entering Game 1 is the injury status of two-time NBA MVP and 2021 Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks’ superstar forward will likely play in the First Round but is expected to miss the start of the series due to a calf injury.

Milwaukee is 4-5 in games without Antetokounmpo this season. He played in all five games against Indiana during the regular season.

The Pacers enter the playoffs surging, finishing 10-5 over their last 15 games and winning four of their final five. During that same stretch, the Bucks went 6-9, including dropping their final two.

Both teams have ranked in the top five for points per game this season, with Indiana finishing first at 123.3 per game and Milwaukee fourth at 119.0. 

Indiana’s big three, Tyrese Haliburton, Siakam, and Myles Turner, have led the Pacers into the playoffs.

Haliburton, recently named to the Team USA roster for the 2024 Olympics, has played some of his best games of the season against the Bucks. The Oshkosh, Wisconsin, native has averaged 28 points, 11 assists, and 5.8 rebounds through five games against Milwaukee and has come through in big moments, including draining a dagger 3-pointer in the In-Season Tournament Semifinals. 

Since joining the squad, Siakam has been an excellent fit with his new teammates, helping the Blue & Gold to a 23-18 record. He’s averaging 21.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.7 assists across 41 games and has been a big part of helping the Pacers go from the bottom to the middle of the league on the defensive end.

Turner, now the all-time franchise leader in blocks, has averaged 16.4 points and 6.5 rebounds over the last 15 games while serving as the defensive anchor.

The Pacers’ league-leading bench has hummed right along to the finish, thanks in part to the play of veteran point guard T.J. McConnell. McConnell has been superb this season, averaging a career-best 10.2 points to go along with 5.5 assists and 2.2 rebounds with the reserves.

Also, Obi Toppin has remained a threat in the second unit thanks to his dunking, 3-point shooting abilities, and improved defense. Over the last 10 games, Toppin has averaged 11.5 points and 4.0 rebounds.

If Antetokounmpo sits out any games, it could prove a massive break for the Pacers. 

The "Greek Freak" averaged 42.2 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 5.4 assists across five games against the Blue & Gold in the regular season. Antetokounmpo recorded a double-double in all four games, including one triple-double, and scored a franchise-record 64 points in the Dec. 13 contest.

Bobby Portis, a 6-10 forward averaging 13.8 points and 7.4 rebounds this season, would likely start in Antetokounmpo’s stead.

First-year Buck Damian Lillard may be called on to pick up his team’s offensive load if Antetokounmpo sits. Lillard put up 20.3 points, 5.8 assists and 5.0 rebounds in five games against the Pacers but also brings extensive postseason experience. In 61 career playoff games with Portland, Lillard averaged 25.7 points, 6.2 assists and 4.5 rebounds.

Khris Middleton, who is putting up 15.1 points per game on 49.3 percent shooting, will also remain a key player to watch along with Beverley’s defensive assignment on Haliburton.

Second-year guard Andrew Nembhard and starting forward Aaron Nesmith will likely draw the assignments for guarding Lillard and Middleton.

Projected Starters

Pacers: G - Tyrese Haliburton, G - Andrew Nembhard, F - Aaron Nesmith, F - Pascal Siakam, C - Myles Turner

Bucks: G - Damian Lillard, G - Patrick Beverley, F - Khris Middleton, F - Bobby Portis, C - Brook Lopez

Injury Report

Pacers: Bennedict Mathurin - out (right shoulder labral tear)

Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo - doubtful (left soleus strain)

Last Meeting

Jan. 3, 2024: A 47-point third quarter propelled the Pacers to a 142-130 win over the Bucks at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. 

Indiana shot 55.6 percent for the game to the Bucks’ 50 percent, and seven players recorded double-digit points for the Blue & Gold.

Tyrese Haliburton had a terrific night, scoring 31 points and dishing out 12 assists for the Blue & Gold, while Bennedict Mathurin supplied 16 points off the bench. Bruce Brown, Myles Turner, and Obi Toppin each scored 15 points.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 26 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists across 36 minutes, and Damian Lillard logged 23 points on 6-for-18 shooting.

The Pacers outrebounded the Bucks 44-42 and had 11 turnovers to the visitors’ 13 giveaways. 


  • The Pacers are seeking their first playoff victory since 2018. Indiana was swept in both the 2019 and 2020 playoffs.
  • Indiana and Milwaukee have only ever played twice in the postseason. In 1999, the Pacers swept the Bucks 3-0. In 2000, which many remember for the Game 5 game-winner by Travis Best, the Blue & Gold won the series 3-2.
  • Indiana has not won a playoff series since the 2013-14 season. In 2014, the Pacers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
  • The Bucks have an overall record of 17-19 since Doc Rivers became head coach.

Broadcast Information (TV and Radio Listings >>)

TV: TNT - Ian Eagle (play-by-play), Grant Hill (analyst), Jared Greenberg (sideline reporter)
Bally Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (sideline reporter/host)

Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan - Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Eddie Gill (analyst), Pat Boylan (sideline reporter/host)


The Pacers will host the Bucks in Game 3 on Friday, April 26 at 5:30 PM ET, the first playoff game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse since 2019. Find Tickets >>