After years of frustration as he tried to reach the NBA Finals, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo was stuck on the sidelines Saturday as his teammates took him there, writes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Many feared Milwaukee’s chances were over when Antetokounmpo suffered a hyperextended knee in Game 4, but the supporting cast stepped up and dispatched Atlanta without him.
Although Antetokounmpo was injured, he was standing through virtually all of Saturday’s game, cheering on his team and offering advice and encouragement.
“He’s halfway on the court talking to Bobby (Portis), talking to Brook (Lopez), talking to different players, to see that kind of connection, commitment, from a player who would be dying to be out there and playing,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think he appreciates, you know, what his teammates can do.”
There’s more on the Bucks:
- Antetokoumpo’s status remains uncertain heading into the Finals, which will start Tuesday in Phoenix. There was reportedly optimism that he would try to play Monday if the Hawks series had gone to a seventh game. He did on-court work yesterday for the first time since suffering the injury, but little was revealed about that session. Budenholzer told reporters that he will evaluate Antetokounmpo on a day-to-day basis with help from general manager Jon Horst and the sports performance team, tweets Ben Golliver of The Washington Post.
- Milwaukee paid a huge price for Jrue Holiday over the offseason, sending three first-round picks and two potential swaps to the Pelicans, but he’s showing he was worth it, observes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. With Antetokounmpo injured, Holiday averaged 26 points, 7.5 rebounds and 11 assists in Games 5 and 6. “Within the team, we just love playing with him,” Pat Connaughton said. “We love having him on board. We love the type of guy he is as a person. As a player, he always makes the right play. When he’s in attack mode he’s really hard to stop not just from a scoring standpoint but from getting other guys involved, getting guys easy shots, getting open shots, whatever it might be.”
- Budenholzer has been maligned for playoff disappointments in Milwaukee and Atlanta, but he made an important decision after Game 4 that helped swing the series in the Bucks’ favor, Nehm adds. Budenholzer abandoned the team’s traditional drop coverage on the pick-and-roll and asked his big men to switch on ball screens. “He’s done more adjusting this year than he’s ever done before, schemes and some of the things that we’re doing, he’s getting a little more adventurous,” said P.J. Tucker. “And I think the personnel, that gives him a freedom to do that a lot more and that’s one of the reasons we’ve been so successful.”