Sports

Where’s my ball? Giannis scuffles with pacers over historic match ball


MILWAUKEE, United States, Dec 14 – Giannis Antetokounmpo exchanged heated words with members of the Indiana staff and raced toward the Pacers’ locker room Wednesday night as both teams squared off in a hallway in a dispute over the game ball following the Milwaukee Bucks star’s franchise-record 64-point performance.

After Milwaukee’s 140-126 victory, Antetokounmpo had an animated discussion with Indiana star Tyrese Haliburton and other Pacers before rushing from the court toward the Indiana locker room, seemingly in search of the game ball.

Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said after the game that the Pacers took the ball for Oscar Tshiebwe, who scored his first official NBA point in the game.

That led to a confrontation between members of the teams in the arena hallway. Carlisle said several Bucks players, including Antetokounmpo, came into the Pacers’ tunnel looking for the ball and that a scuffle ensued. He said Pacers GM Chad Buchanan was elbowed in the ribs by one of the Bucks players.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo raced into the Pacers’ tunnel after Wednesday night’s game in search of the game ball following his 64-point performance. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

“Unfortunate situation,” Carlisle said. “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 2½, 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.”

Bucks guard Cameron Payne said he was one of the players who went down the tunnel.

“Man wanted that ball,” Payne said, referring to Antetokounmpo. “I’m following my team, helping my teammate out. It was just a lot of commotion, honestly. He just wanted his ball, man.”

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Antetokounmpo echoed Carlisle’s sentiments, calling the incident “unfortunate.” He said he actually wanted the game ball because he believed it should go to teammate Damian Lillard, who made his 2,451st career 3-pointer on Wednesday night to pass Kyle Korver for fifth place in NBA history.

“I understand, when you score your first point in the NBA you want to have the ball or whatever the case may be,” Antetokounmpo said of the Pacers honoring Tshiebwe’s feat. “But at the end of the day you’re talking about the guy that just skipped Kyle Korver in the all-time list. In my opinion, we should all stop what we’re doing and appreciate greatness.”

The postgame incident overshadowed a dominant performance from Antetokounmpo, who broke the team record of 57 points set by Michael Redd in 2006 in a 113-111 loss to the Utah Jazz. Antetokounmpo’s previous career high was 55 in a 123-113 victory over Washington in January 2023. He had 54 at Indiana on Nov. 9.

“He’s an unstoppable player. You can’t guard him one-on-one. You’ve got some really good guys surrounding him, but at the end of the day, it’s all him,” Bucks coach Adrian Griffin said. “His talent. His ability. His will. He has an incredible will to win, and he’ll do whatever it takes to win. I’m just coaching the game and one of the coaches told me, ‘Yeah, Giannis has 50. I had no idea.’ But wow, what a great performance.”

Antetokounmpo was 20 of 28 from the field, made 24 of 32 free throws and had 14 rebounds.

He became the first player in NBA history to make at least 20 field goals and 20 free throws in a game while shooting at least 70% on each. It’s also the most points with fewer than 30 field goal attempts in a game in NBA history.

-By ESPN

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