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Just as everyone expected heading into the season, the budding rivalry between the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers has become one of the league's main storylines. Ahead of their fifth and final meeting of the regular season on Wednesday night in Indianapolis, here's a look back at how this feud developed and what the players and coaches have had to say along the way. 

Nov. 9: Pacers make a double-digit fourth-quarter comeback, Adrian Griffin ejected, Giannis scores 54

Just a few weeks into the season, the Pacers played host to the team's first meeting. The dramatic and competitive affair would set the tone for the rest of the matchups between the two clubs. 

The Pacers blitzed the Bucks early on, jumping out to an 18-point lead thanks to their high-powered offense. Slowly but surely, however, the Bucks worked their way back into things, as Giannis Antetokounmpo slashed his way to the rim and free throw line for 54 points, one shy of his then-career-high of 55. 

By the middle of the fourth quarter, the Bucks had a double-digit lead of their own, and appeared to be on their way to a win even though Damian Lillard was sidelined with a calf injury and head coach Adrian Griffin had been ejected for arguing with the officials. Instead, the Pacers came storming back and took the lead for good on a Tyrese Haliburton 3-pointer with 1:29 to play. They hung on for a 126-124 win.

"I thought Giannis was getting hit quite a bit and voiced my opinion," Griffin said about his ejection. "Next time I'll be a little more delicate. He's such a great human being and doesn't complain, has such respect for the referees. It is my responsibility to make sure he's protected."

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, meanwhile, had some prophetic words: "We had to deal with a player who was extraordinarily hot and on a roll. We executed as well as we could and created some chaos defensively. You've got to take some risks or else he's going to end up with 60. Very fortunate to get the win."

Dec. 7: Haliburton steals the show and Lillard's celebration, Bucks combust in the locker room

A month later, the second game between the two teams arrived as an unplanned showdown in Las Vegas in the semifinals of the In-Season Tournament. The chance to make it to the inaugural IST championship game, and the looming $500,000 individual cash prize, raised the stakes and the intensity. 

Once again, it was a back-and-forth affair. The Bucks jumped in front early, but the Pacers closed the half on a huge run to take a double-digit lead. That advantage would not last long, as Damian Lillard caught fire coming out of the break and put the Bucks in front heading into the fourth. 

The two teams traded blows down the stretch until the Pacers put the game away with a 15-6 run in the final 2:40 which was highlighted by back-to-back buckets by Haliburton that gave Indiana an eight-point advantage. After the second of the two, a step-back 3-pointer with a minute to play, Haliburton broke out Lillard's signature "Dame Time" celebration. Haliburton finished with 27 points and 15 assists in the Pacers' 128-119 win. 

"I think it was just in the heat of the moment, having fun," Haliburton said following his 27-point, 15-assist performance in the Pacers' 128-119 win. "I know I kind of pounded my chest and said it was my time, whatever, but I think really looking at it, it's our time. It's our time as a group."

Lillard, for his part, largely took Haliburton's imitation in stride but also issued a warning. 

"When you are having your moment, it's important to be careful, to be humble in your moments because you just never know how the tables are going to turn or when they are going to turn," Lillard said. "I learned as a kid, when you dish it out, you've got to be willing to take it. For as many times as I've done it to people, I can't be upset when somebody else does it, you know what I mean. I think that's also a sign of respect and acknowledgment for knowing my history and knowing what I do."

If that wasn't enough drama, reports broke a few hours after the game that the Bucks had a confrontation in the locker room involving veteran forward Bobby Portis and head coach Adrian Griffin. Per Chris Haynes, Portis was upset with his teammates and the first-year head coach for their lack of composure and poor execution down the stretch. 

"I won't comment on what was reported," Griffin said a few days later. "Like I said, we're a passionate group, we hate to lose. We're a together group. I love coaching this group. We got nothing but winners and high character guys and whatever internal dialogue happens in our locker room stays in our locker room."

"Don't want to speak too much about what's happening in our locker room," Portis added. "What happens in our locker room is sacred between us. That's how it's always been, don't know how it got reported, but at the same time, I'm just a competitor. I love to compete... I'm here for all the right reasons."

Dec. 13: Giannis sends a message -- and tries to get the ball

"It's important to be careful, to be humble," Lillard said in Las Vegas. "Because you just never know how the tables are going to turn or when they are going to turn." 

It was less than a week before Haliburton and the Pacers faced the music, and they were not ready for the Bucks' response. Antetokounmpo sent a message early by shoulder-checking Haliburton to the floor, earning a technical in the process. That set off an eventful, historic and drama-filled evening, the likes of which we might never see again

All told, the affair featured an an all-time milestone, a flagrant foul, multiple technicals, an ejection, a career and franchise record for Antetokounmpo and a bizarre basketball mystery. 

When Lillard hit a 3-pointer in the third quarter to move into fifth place on the all-time list, it seemed like that would be the main story -- especially with the Bucks comfortably ahead. Not quite. In the fourth quarter, Aaron Nesmith delivered a flagrant foul to Antetokounmpo that sent everyone over the edge. A few minutes later, Portis was ejected for picking up a second technical, and down the stretch, the fed-up Bucks proved a point by re-inserting the starters into the game with a 10-point lead and 2:04 remaining. 

Antetokounmpo, who already had a career and franchise-high by then, ran up the score to get to 64 points, further infuriating the Pacers. At the final buzzer, he inflamed the situation by storming down the tunnel in search of the game ball. Carlisle later said that a Bucks player elbowed Pacers GM Chad Buchanan in the ribs during the ensuing chaos. 

Upon returning to the court, Antetokounmpo then had words with Haliburton, who didn't quite understand what the issue was. "For some reason, he wanted to confront me," Haliburton said. "I was just standing out there."

Once everything had settled down, the situation seemed to be a big misunderstanding. A Bucks security staffer had taken the main game ball from an official at the buzzer, while the Pacers had grabbed an alternate one to give to rookie big man Oscar Tshiebwe in honor of his first official points. 

Antetokounmpo, though, wasn't so sure. 

"I have a ball, but I don't know if it's the game ball," Antetokounmpo said. "It doesn't feel like the game ball to me. It feels like a brand new ball. I can tell, I've played 35 minutes today, I know how the game ball felt. The ball that I have, which I'll take and give to my mom for sure, but I don't know if it's actually the game ball.

"I knew they had the game ball. I didn't think they had the game ball, I knew they had the ball. I don't know how it works, but I assume I cannot just walk into any arena I play in and just take the ball."

All anyone could agree on that night was that the bad blood between the teams was real, and an old-school rivalry was brewing.

Jan. 1: Old battles revisited, Haliburton and Pacers pull off another comeback

In the lead-up to their fourth encounter of the season on New Year's Day, both teams had a few things to say about their previous confrontation. 

It's clear now that the Bucks did indeed have the actual game ball, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, "Bucks sources insisted the ball was never the core issue of the postgame interactions." Rather, Antetokounmpo and Co. were more upset about a perceived lack of sportsmanship from the Pacers, who didn't shake hands after the Dec. 13 game. 

"People didn't see the way Indiana acted that night," a Bucks source told ESPN. "You come into our house and take our stuff. Screaming, 'F-you. F-you.' Yeah, how's a guy going to react?"

The Pacers weren't buying it. 

"Does everybody shake hands in the NBA after a game?" Haliburton said. 

"It was unnecessary, it was blown out of proportion," Myles Turner added. "They had the ball the whole time. I think that was obvious. So I'll just leave it at that.

"They tried to run up the score at the end. Giannis came in, came out, then we cut the lead to like 10 points in the garbage time -- they put all their starters back in and then they tried to run up the score. There's unwritten rules in basketball. We thought it was disrespectful and some guys reacted accordingly."

Then there was the physical nature of the previous fixture. 

"We kind of bullied them that game," Portis said. "I think they felt that presence. When a team beats you twice, you don't want to let them beat you three times because now they think they can play with you. We played with a sense of urgency. We were more physical, we were hitting them. I don't think they liked that."

TJ McConnell was more succinct: "They punked us the last time we were here."

When they met again in Milwaukee, the Pacers were ready. They were more physical and more aggressive in defending Antetokounmpo. They just couldn't hit any shots. As a result of their 5-of-35 night from downtown, they found themselves trailing by 15 on either side of halftime. 

But just like the first meeting between the teams, they refused to go away. In the fourth quarter, Carlisle went to a double point guard lineup featuring Haliburton and McConnell, and the Bucks had no answers. Those two scored 17 of the Pacers' final 21 points, while McConnell came up with what Carlisle called "one of the best hustle plays I've seen all year" to seal the 122-113 win. 

"This is a game that everybody was prepared for and everybody was ready for," Haliburton said. "Again, I think their words were 'We weren't ready for them physically.' I think we were ready for them today."

The Pacers are now 3-1 against the Bucks, but beating them a fourth time might be the toughest thing they do all season. 

"They'll be very motivated coming out Wednesday," Carlisle said. "That's just how this is. We gotta be real motivated too. We're gonna have a live building, a great crowd. We gotta be worthy of it from a competitive standpoint.