Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo thinks the biggest challenge for his team in the playoffs will be to keep up its regular season play and effort. On Thursday, the Bucks rallied back from a 23-point deficit to beat the Miami Heat 130-116 and clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Antetokounmpo, who won the NBA MVP award last season, was asked if the Heat was the biggest threat to stop his team from making its first NBA Finals in 45 years. Antetokounmpo listed all five teams placed above the Heat and then gave an answer on the question who has the best chance of stopping the Bucks.
"I think the biggest challenge for us is ourselves," Antetokounmpo said. "How are we going to play? How hard are we going to play? Are we going to play for one another? Are we going to defend hard? Are we going to be able to rebound the ball? Are we going to be able to make the extra effort? Are we going to dive on the floor? "It's all about us.
It's all about us." The Heat were up by 17 at the halftime but the Bucks absolutely dominated the second half to claim the win. Bucks' Khris Middleton scored 33 points and also had six rebounds and eight assists against the Heat.
"It was just effort," Middleton, who tied with Antetokounmpo to lead the Bucks with 33 points. "We all spoke about it [at halftime] and realized we just weren't playing our best basketball. We were one or two steps behind on everything.
"So our focus was just play harder, play better."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra praises the Bucks
"You have to give them credit," Heat coach Spoelstra said. "They stepped up their pressure. We felt that more in the second half.
And we didn't help ourselves, either, with the fouling, particularly in the third quarter, we were hacking and reaching. "That allowed them to slow the game down a little bit and get to the free throw line and just kind of crawl back into it, but you have to give them credit, for sure."
Meanwhile, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said: "Well, I don't think you'd ever guess to be coaching in an NBA game on Aug. 6. So, pretty unique and rare times to win a game, and more importantly to have the best record in the Eastern Conference is a tribute to our players and what they've done every night and how they've brought it. I'm very proud of them."