NBA: Giannis keen to buck trend of fast starts, fruitless finishes

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunking against Bulls' Lauri Markkanen. The Bucks star scored some flashy baskets on his return from injury. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Giannis Antetokounmpo dunking against Bulls' Lauri Markkanen. The Bucks star scored some flashy baskets on his return from injury. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHICAGO • With a National Basketball Association-best 30-5 record, the Milwaukee Bucks are off to a great start. Giannis Antetokounmpo, though, is more concerned with the team's finish this season.

The reigning Most Valuable Player had 23 points and 10 rebounds after missing two games with a sore back, and Milwaukee pulled away in the second half for a 123-102 victory at the Chicago Bulls on Monday night.

Antetokounmpo, the league's second-leading scorer behind James Harden (38.3 points per game) with an average of 30.3 points per game, played only 27 minutes and sat out the final 5min 30sec because of the lopsided score.

On the return of his marquee player, who drew applause from the United Centre crowd for some customary flashy baskets, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said: "There are momentum plays, there are things that just give your team energy and may be deflating for your opponent. It was great. For him to miss a couple of games and come back and have a dunk like that was impressive."

But the forward has been here before, with no championships to show for it. Last season, the Bucks also had the best regular-season record at 60-22, but they failed to progress to the NBA Finals and the "Greek Freak" wants to go one better this time round.

"We won 30 games before January. It's cool, but we can always do better," he said. "We've got to keep improving because the goal is to play late in the season."

Khris Middleton scored 25 points for the Bucks, and Eric Bledsoe had 15 in 16 minutes after missing the previous eight games with a fractured right leg.

"We move way faster with him," Antetokounmpo said of the latter. "He's like a sports car. He goes so fast, and we've got to follow him. It's always good to have him back."

Zach LaVine scored 19 points for Chicago, but shot just seven for 23 from the field, while Coby White had 18 and Wendell Carter Jr added 10 as they remained ninth in the East with a 13-21 record.

  • 30.3

    Points per game Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging, the second highest in the NBA.

"In the first half, we were there, but in the second half, we weren't playing our best basketball," forward Lauri Markkanen, who contributed 18 for the hosts, said.

"We've shown we can play with anybody, but obviously, we've got to do it for 48 minutes to actually win the game. We can't have those lapses we did in the third."

ASSOCIATED PRESS

MILWAUKEE V MINNESOTA

StarHub Ch217, tomorrow, 9am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2020, with the headline 'Giannis keen to buck trend of fast starts, fruitless finishes'. Print Edition | Subscribe