They’re only in the conference finals, the same spot they reached two years ago, but it appears Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks have exorcised their NBA playoff demons. They did so in a big way, too, beating the Brooklyn Nets — the year-long favorites to win it all — in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Beating a team like the Nets is no simple task, so Antetokounmpo gave an emotional response after the big win. His remarks ultimately proved why people respect him so much as a competitor.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks beat the Nets in Game 7
The Bucks-Nets series was one that, at times, no one expected Milwaukee to win. Brooklyn led 2-0 before eventually leading the series 3-2 following a blown 17-point Milwaukee lead in Game 5.
However, the reason many people picked Brooklyn to win it all was because of its Big Three — Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving — and 66% of that trio was banged up throughout the entire series. Irving didn’t play in Games 5–7 and Harden didn’t appear anywhere close to full strength when taking the court. This ultimately gave the Bucks an opportunity to take advantage of a team that wasn’t at 100%.
And that’s what they did.
The Bucks tied the series 3-3 after a 104-89 win in Game 6 before playing in a Game 7 that turned into an instant classic.
Despite Durant nearly dropping 50 points (48 to be exact), and making what looked like the game-winning shot toward the end of regulation (if it weren’t for his toe being on the line), the Bucks ultimately won 115-111 in overtime. Antetokounmpo came up huge in the game, recording 40 points, pulling down 13 rebounds, and helping his team reach the Eastern Conference finals.
Giannis gave an emotional response after the win
After getting the big win over the Nets, Antetokounmpo gave an emotional response, and rightfully so; he and his teammates had just won the biggest game of the season and potentially their entire careers. His remarks also proved why people respect him so much as a competitor.
“We’ve all worked extremely hard to be in this moment, and I’m not talking about basketball, I’m talking about life,” Antetokounmpo said to reporters, per the Bucks’ team YouTube channel. “Just being able to be in a position on the road, Game 7; you watch this growing up on TV and see the all-time greats going head-to-head in Game 7 and getting big wins.”
He continued: “At the end of the day, we worked extremely hard our whole life for this moment, so I wanted everybody to live up this moment, to feel this moment, to cherish this moment because we are built for this. That’s why we are here. No matter the pressure, no matter what’s going on, we are built for this, right? So, we believe in who we are; no matter what happens, win or lose, we’re going to stay together, and we’re just going to go out there and compete.”
Game 7 entertained basketball fans everywhere, but Antetokounmpo’s comments gave perspective as to how this isn’t entertainment for them. He and his teammates worked their entire lives to play in a game like that, so being able to win means a great deal to each player.
Can Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks advance to the NBA finals?
Now that they’re in the conference finals, the biggest question is whether Antetokounmpo and the Bucks can advance to the NBA finals.
They must face either the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed, the Philadelphia 76ers — who, like the Bucks, have also lost their composure at times throughout the playoffs — or the young Atlanta Hawks. Both teams could give the Bucks a hard time, but Joel Embiid’s size and Ben Simmons’ defense for the Sixers could make it hard on Antetokounmpo and his team.
However, while the Bucks went 3-0 against the 76ers this season and 2-1 against the Hawks, Trae Young only played in one of those three games for Atlanta. Embiid and Simmons also only played in one game each for Philadelphia, so it’s hard to say how the Bucks will actually fare in a series with either team.
No matter who they face, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and others give the Bucks a tremendous amount talent, and enough of it to reach the NBA finals. It’ll be interesting to see if they can fully exorcise those demons and advance out of the Eastern Conference.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference