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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Giannis Antetokounmpo admits East playoffs have been easier without LeBron

Giannis Antetokounmpo

LeBron James did every team in the Eastern Conference a favor last summer when he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, but players are often hesitant to admit when their competition is not as difficult as it could be. To his credit, Giannis Antetokounmpo is a realist.

The Boston Celtics were considered the favorites in the East once LeBron left, but Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks took care of them in five games. They’re now three wins away from reaching the NBA Finals, and Giannis admitted on Thursday that LeBron no longer being in the picture has made things easier.

“I didn’t see (the East) as open (after LeBron left),” Antetokounmpo said Thursday, via ESPN’s Malika Andrews. “But now that I look back and see how everything went, it’s definitely open, not having LeBron in the East and not trying to go through him.”

The Bucks have beaten the Detroit Pistons and Celtics, and they now have a 1-0 lead over the Toronto Raptors. While Kawhi Leonard is playing some of the best basketball of his life, he still isn’t LeBron. There’s a reason James went to the Finals eight years in a row, and Giannis and his teammates know that.

“Any time you don’t have to go through LeBron James is going to help your odds,” Bucks guard Pat Connaughton said.

In some ways it’s a shame that LeBron left the East, because seeing him go head-to-head with Giannis would have been a treat for NBA fans.

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