TORONTO — Tuesday night marked the first time since Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks came back to Scotiabank Arena since losing to the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.
And, after the Bucks came away with a different result this time, winning 108-97 over the Raptors, Antetokounmpo admitted the sting of last year’s defeat on the precipice of the NBA Finals has yet to fade away.
“You always remember the last time you play here, the problems you had,” Antetokounmpo said after finishing with 19 points, 19 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks in 38 minutes.
“It was definitely on my mind.”
The Bucks blew a 15-point lead in that game, but there was no such collapse this time around. After falling behind by as many as 12 in the first half, Milwaukee outscored Toronto 45-20 from the 2:58 mark of the second quarter through the end of the third, building an 84-71 lead after three quarters that the Bucks would never relinquish.
Raptors fan Drake, meanwhile, had his own slant on Toronto’s hosting of Milwaukee for the first time since advancing to its first NBA Finals, and later winning its first championship. In a move that could be seen as mocking Milwaukee’s elaborate pregame wrestling routine — including Antetokounmpo bringing a WWE championship belt with him on this road trip — the rapper showed up before the game with two WWE belts, one slung over each shoulder.
When asked by TNT before the game whether he was trolling Antetokounmpo by doing so, Drake said, “Obviously.”
Antetokounmpo was later asked about it after Tuesday’s game, and he said he wasn’t even aware it had happened until teammate Donte DiVincenzo mentioned it to him in the locker room.
“I didn’t notice that,” Antetokounmpo said. “I just found out about it. Somebody told me. When I’m in the game, I’m just locked in. I’m just trying to win the game. I really don’t look outside at fans or what they do and all that.”
When he was informed that Drake said he brought the belts to troll Antetokounmpo, the NBA’s reigning MVP replied, “That’s good. He cares about me. I really don’t. I’m just here to win games and help my team win. That’s all.”
He helped the Bucks do that again Tuesday, taking advantage of Toronto sending extra defenders at him all night by racking up those eight assists and finishing the game with a plus-13 rating. He also went 2-for-4 from 3-point range and 7-for-8 from the free throw line to make up for shooting 3-for-10 on 2s.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee improved to 8-0 this season in games on the second night of a back-to-back after beating the Washington Wizards in overtime Monday night — another thing Antetokounmpo said he was unaware of before being informed of it.
“Really? I don’t think we even think about it,” he said. “We just come out and try to do our job. We have a winning culture. So it doesn’t matter if you are hurt, it doesn’t matter if you are tired — the next guy up is ready to go. Everybody wants to play, everybody wants to win, and that’s why we win games. Sometimes on a back-to-back you lose because you’re tired, right? And you give up. But this team doesn’t do that.
“So I think that we really don’t think about, ‘Oh, it’s a back-to-back. We are going to win it.’ We just have to go out there and do our job, which is to just win games.”
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