The Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets squared off in a matinee game on Tuesday, but the early tip-off certainly did not result in a lack of enthusiasm from the players.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nets forward Donta Hall came very close to getting into a physical confrontation in the first half. Hall aggressively shoved Giannis to the floor while the two were fighting for rebounding position, and Antetokounmpo did not appreciate it. He sprung up and was about to go after Hall before being restrained by an official. You could clearly see the reigning NBA MVP tell the ref, “I’m gonna f— him up.”
The Bucks went into halftime trailing against the Nets, who are playing without Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie and more. Perhaps that added to Antetokounmpo’s frustration.
The rivalry between James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo continues.
Harden’s Houston Rockets topped Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks 120-116 on Sunday in Orlando. Harden scored just 24 points on 5-for-14 shooting but had six steals in his team’s win. Giannis was a statistical monster in the loss, putting up 36 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists.
Harden was asked after the game about the difficulty in defending Antetokounmpo and had no interest in answering. Instead, he said “next question”.
A foul call late in Friday night’s Milwaukee Bucks 119-112 win over the Boston Celtics helped swing the game, and Marcus Smart thinks he knows the reason for the call.
Smart got in front of a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo with 1:28 left in the game to take a charge, but he was called for a foul instead. Antetokounmpo’s layup counted, and he made a free throw, which turned the game from tied at 107 to putting Milwaukee up 110-107.
Milwaukee continued to expand their lead and ended up winning by seven.
After the game, Smart said the foul was called on him rather than on Giannis because the refs did not want to give Antetokounmpo his sixth foul of the game.
Smart says the referees told him the "excuse" the referees told him that the charge was overturned on Giannis Antetokounmpo was because he got in the lane late. He said the "real reason" was that they didn't want Giannis to foul out. "Let's call a spade a spade," he said.
Antetokounmpo wasn’t offended by Smart’s theory. Instead, the MVP candidate praised the Celtics guard as a “great player.” Antetokounmpo praised Smart for playing hard and taking on tough assignments defensively.
Whether he was right or wrong about the reason, the foul call was a game-changer that worked significantly in Milwaukee’s favor. And once again, Smart has some issues with the refs.
It almost feels like there’s even more at stake in this year’s NBA playoffs than usual. Due to the pause in NBA action, teams that will be involved in the playoffs have had extra time to think ahead and plan and consider the repercussions of what a bad playoff run could mean. Multiple superteams will feel that they don’t have an indefinite amount of time to win a championship. Players are inching closer to free agency. Some teams, as built, may not be able to continue to exist in their current form.
Which players really need to win a title sooner rather than later? These five could face serious consequences if things don’t go their way in the postseason.
The NBA is still planning to crown a champion this season, and many feel the title should come with an asterisk since the circumstances surrounding it will be so unusual. As far as Giannis Antetokounmpo is concerned, that asterisk should indicate that the 2019-20 NBA title was the most challenging ever to capture.
With players having to quarantine in Orlando and follow numerous guidelines in order to get back to playing, Giannis told reporters on Wednesday that he believes this year’s championship will be the “toughest championship you can ever win.”
Giannis on the championship asterisk idea: "This will be the toughest championship you can ever win. The circumstances are really tough right now."
Professional athletes are creatures of habit and routine. All of that is going to be thrown out the window in Orlando, so Giannis has a point. You also have to factor in that some teams could be missing (and in some cases are already) key players if there are positive coronavirus tests. Winning an NBA title this year would be different, but Antetokounmpo could be right that it will be more difficult.
One former player said a long time ago that he thinks the 2019-20 playoffs could be the best in league history. If all of the league’s top players manage to stay healthy, that could be the case.
The NBA playoffs are often full of remarkable performances, with one player taking over a game and dragging his team over the line. After all, we’ve seen it plenty of times over the year, from Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant to LeBron James and many more.
Who are those players now? Here are five who could, if they take over a game or series, be good enough to lead their team to the NBA Finals — and even win a championship when the season resumes in Orlando this summer.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is just over a year away from becoming a free agent. While the league’s current situation has everything in flux, one team that would love to have Giannis may have already hurt their chances.
The Knicks drafted Giannis’ brother Thanasis in the second round in 2013, but did not give him much of a chance. Thanasis played in just two games for the Knicks and has since moved on to play with his brother in Milwaukee.
Marc Berman of the New York Post summarized some of the comments Giannis and his inner circle have made on how the Knicks treated Thanasis. In 2015, the Knicks failed to call Thanasis up for a game against the Bucks in London, prompting Giannis to say he was “a little disappointed.” In addition, Giorgos Panou, one of Giannis’ agents, remarked last season that the Knicks were the only team not to send a scout to see Giannis in Greece. The Knicks have denied that claim.
For this to matter, you’d have to think the Knicks ever had a shot at Giannis to begin with. The team isn’t close to contention and looks poorly-run to most in the NBA, which could scare him off either way. He’s also said he’d like to play with his brothers. That’s already unlikely, but if Giannis really wants to make it happen, it probably won’t be happening in New York given the experience Thanasis had there.