Instead of weaving through traffic for dunks and layups, reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo had to witness Milwaukee‘s regular-season finale from a hotel room inside the NBA bubble while serving a one-game suspension.
For the second straight season, the NBA-best Bucks clinched the No. 1 seed in the East entering the postseason with high expectations, but were 3-5 in the Orlando bubble.
For Antetokounmpo, that didn’t sit well.
“It wasn’t frustrating because we were losing. Like, losing is part of basketball, losing is part of the game, but, obviously, what was frustrating because at times I think we wasn’t ourselves,” Antetokounmpo said following Saturday’s practice. “We wasn’t moving the ball as much as I wanted to move the ball or as much as [coach Mike Budenholzer] wants us to move the ball. We wasn’t defending as hard. As I said, there was times that we were ourselves, where we were the No. 1 team in the league on defense, but there were times that we showed that and there was times that we didn’t.
“I think the most frustrating part for me was probably the Memphis game, sitting in the hotel and not being able to be out there to help my teammates compete and win a game and losing a lot of money. But, yeah, this is over. This is in the past,” he continued. “Now it’s playoff time. I definitely don’t believe in the turn-on switch that everybody talks about, like we can turn on the switch and be great, but I do believe that if everybody is on the same page and if everyone is focused and get together and watch clips and be on the same page and we know what our game plan is, I believe we can play way, way better.”
Milwaukee will face Orlando in the opening round, with Game 1 set for 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Despite missing the final game of the regular season for headbutting Washington‘s Moe Wagner, Antetokounmpo was named to the NBA All-Seeding Games Second Team after averaging 27.8 points and 12.2 rebounds during this restart.
The Bucks are also being given a 47% chance to win the 2019-20 NBA title, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI). The Los Angeles Lakers have the next-best chance at 15 percent.
Antetokounmpo is limiting how much he consumes media or outside chatter in an attempt to lock in on his goal of winning a championship. Milwaukee’s recent struggles are certainly being noted, but the focus is now to correct them.
“I feel like my whole career, even this year, they haven’t been paying a lot of attention to us, but at the end of the day, we’re going to do what we do,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’re going to try to play good basketball, try to improve every day and focus on ourselves. It doesn’t really matter what’s out there, if they have us as the favorites to win, if they don’t talk about us, but I think at the end of the day all that matters is what we do, how we practice and how we get better, how we have fun and how we go out there and compete together. As long as we’re doing that, we’re going to be in a good place.”