By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
GIANNIS Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Phoenix Suns in Game One of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals but for the two-time league most valuable player, it did not make a dent on the excitement of playing in his first-ever “Big Dance.”
“It felt good. It felt good. Just wearing the jacket and seeing the Finals logo on the jacket and the jersey; obviously, we didn’t get the win, but it’s good to be here,” said the Bucks superstar in the postgame interview, the transcript of which was shared to Philippine sports media.
“It’s good to enjoy the moment, enjoy the games. You can never take things like this for granted and just try to make the best out of it. We worked hard all year to have an opportunity to win a championship, and we’re going to keep working hard day-by-day and put ourselves in a position to win,” he added.
The Bucks fell to the Suns, 118-105, in the opener of the NBA Finals on Wednesday (Manila time) in Phoenix off solid games for the home team’s “Big Three” of Chris Paul (32 points and nine assists), Devin Booker (27 points) and DeAndre Ayton (22 points and 19 rebounds).
Mr. Antetokounmpo returned from a hyperextended left knee he suffered in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals (ECF) against the Atlanta Hawks, and tallied 20 points and 17 rebounds in 35 minutes of play in his first game back.
“Physically I feel better, mentally I feel good, and I try to figure it out,” Mr. Antetokounmpo said of the current status of his health.
He went on to say, as was seen in Game One, they have their hands full against the Suns, who like the Bucks are in their first NBA Finals in decades.
Mr. Antetokounmpo particularly pointed to All-Stars Paul and Booker as key to Phoenix’s success and that they must do a better job at limiting their impact on the games.
“[We] Just gotta keep making it tough on them, tough as possible. They are going to get a lot of shots to go. [They are] Great playmakers. Most of the time, they are going to make the right decision. The ball is going to be in their hands a lot. Just have to make it as tough as possible,” he said.
While they are down early in the series, Mr. Antetokounmpo said they are still confident of finding their way back, honed by the many adversities they had to deal with previously, including losing a 2-0 ECF lead to eventual 2019 NBA champs Toronto Raptors and being booted out in the first round of the playoffs last season by the Miami Heat.
“We just have to keep finding a way. You cannot predict the future. But in any situation we are in, we’ve got to find a way to win the game, win the game and find a solution to be better, play better and do it together, yeah,” he said.
The Bucks are back in the Finals again since 1974 and are looking to win another title in addition to their lone championship won in 1971.
Phoenix, meanwhile, has not won an NBA title and is playing in their first championship series since 1993.
Game Two of the NBA Finals can be seen on NBA TV Philippines and on TV5 on Friday, July 9, at 9 a.m.