Bucks Notes: Middleton, Giannis, Team Building, Portis

The Bucks may be in a difficult situation, trailing Phoenix 2-0 in the NBA Finals, but the mood was relaxed at today’s media session, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Giannis Antetokounmpo joked with reporters as he answered questions, explaining that the team has chosen this approach rather than being dragged down by the must-win game Sunday night.

Khris Middleton noted that Milwaukee was in the same predicament in the second round against the Nets. The Bucks were able to regroup and take that series after two lopsided losses in Brooklyn.

“A lot of people thought our season was done,” he said. “We still believed in ourselves. We came back and had an ugly grind-it-out game that we found a way to win. Sometimes it’s not going to be pretty. Sometimes it’s going to be ugly. We just got to find a way to win one game at a time from here on out.”

There’s more from Milwaukee:

  • An impassioned speech that Antetokounmpo delivered late in the first half of Game 2 shows how much he has grown in a leadership role, observes Sam Amick of The Athletic. Although he prefers to avoid the spotlight, Giannis has become the team’s on-court leader, a status he cemented when he agreed to a contract extension in December. “He’s grown as a leader vocally. He always had that, you know, workman-type attitude and he always put as much time in the gym as anybody,” Pat Connaughton said. “But even when he got hurt (in the East finals), he was vocal. He was with us. He was present. He was in the locker room. He was on the bench during games. He was pulling people aside individually. He was pulling the team aside collectively and I think he’s done a phenomenal job in his growth as a leader vocally.”
  • It took eight years for the Bucks to build a Finals team around Antetokounmpo and Middleton, who have been with the team since 2013, and Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN looks back at nine significant events in that process.
  • In an article for The Players’ Tribune, Bobby Portis talks about the challenge facing the Bucks and how it relates to his own journey to become an NBA player.
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