Giannis relishing 'special' journey

Detroit Pistons' Blake Griffin marking Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 4 of their NBA play-offs first-round series at Little Caesars Arena on Monday. The Bucks won 127-104 to complete a 4-0 sweep.
Detroit Pistons' Blake Griffin marking Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 4 of their NBA play-offs first-round series at Little Caesars Arena on Monday. The Bucks won 127-104 to complete a 4-0 sweep.PHOTO: REUTERS

'Greek Freak' helps Bucks erase 18 years of hurt as they rout Pistons to reach 2nd round

DETROIT • When the Milwaukee Bucks last won in the first round of the National Basketball Association (NBA) play-offs in 2001, Giannis Antetokounmpo was only seven years old and struggling through life in Athens.

The son of immigrants from Nigeria, he subsequently helped his parents by hawking items such as watches, bags and sunglasses when they found it hard to find work in the Greek capital.

It was not until 2007 before Antetokounmpo started playing basketball.

And, on Monday night, he led the Bucks in wiping away 18 years of frustration by beating the Detroit Pistons 127-104 at Little Caesars Arena to complete a four-game sweep of their first-round Eastern Conference play-off series.

The forward scored 41 points with a section of the away crowd chanting "MVP!" - a complete turnaround of his life from when he first picked up a basketball a little over a decade ago.

Top-seeded Milwaukee cruised through the first three games and, after a slow start in Game 4, they took control late and won by a comfortable 23 points.

Antetokounmpo had a quiet night in Game 3 with just 14 points, but he had all his weapons at his disposal in the close-out game.

 
 
 

"I remember our first play-off series (in 2015)," said the 24-year-old, nicknamed the "Greek Freak".

"Chicago, the last game, Game 6, they beat us by 50 or something insane. But where we were and where we are right now, it's been an unbelievable journey."

Breaking their streak of eight straight play-off exits in such a swift manner means Milwaukee have more time to prepare for their next opponents - the Boston Celtics, who are coming off a sweep of the Indiana Pacers.

"I think it's important that we take a second tonight. Enjoy it," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "It's a good night for Milwaukee. It's a good night for the Bucks."

Milwaukee were also the second team in play-off history to sweep their first-round series by at least 15 points in each game, joining the 1980 Celtics team.

Boston will be familiar foes after knocking the Bucks out of the play-offs last season.

Milwaukee's Eric Bledsoe, however, is prepared for the challenge.

"We're going to enjoy this win tonight and worry about them tomorrow," said the guard.

In Utah, Donovan Mitchell scored 19 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter as the Jazz staved off elimination in Game 4 with a 107-91 victory over the Houston Rockets.

Utah, who now trail 3-1, outscored Houston 31-12 in the final period to set up Game 5 today.

Meanwhile, new Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton is being sued for an alleged sexual assault by Los Angeles-based sports reporter Kelli Tennant, according to multiple media reports on Monday.

TMZ Sports initially broke the story regarding the lawsuit, which was sparked by an alleged incident that occurred before Walton became the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in April 2016.

The exact date in question was unclear. ESPN, citing anonymous sources, reported that the NBA has opened an investigation into the matter.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2019, with the headline 'Giannis relishing 'special' journey'. Print Edition | Subscribe