By John Askounis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The Toronto Raptors won their first-ever NBA title last season by dethroning the Golden State Warriors in six games. They previously needed another six games to overcome the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Eastern Conference Finals, but went the other way in the first 2019-20 matchup between the Eastern Conference finalists.
“I had a lot of motivation” mentioned Antetokounmpo following his team’s 115-105 win at the Fiserv Forum on Saturday evening, “They are the team that cost us the trip to the NBA Finals. Obviously you are going to come out and play a little bit harder. That’s what the team did and that’s what I was thinking.”
The Greek Freak put up 36 points to go along with his 15 boards and eight assists. He also blocked four shots and made one steal in 36 minutes of work. It was his second-ever NBA outing with at least 35 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks with the first stemming from last March.
“Their a different team without Kawhi Leonard, but other players have stepped up” he said commenting on the new-look Raptors, “They are still a great team, but don’t have Kawhi, one the best players in the league, one of the best closers, a very tough player to guard.”
With Kyle Lowry leading the comeback charge, the visitors chimed a 26-point deficit to a four-point disadvantage, distance they got to three times in the fourth quarter. However, they failed to complete a turnaround similar to last year’s best-of-seven series that tipped off with two home wins for the Bucks.
“Not to allow teams coming back, it’s simple” said Antetokounmpo commenting on the early-season habit of opposing teams marching back from large deficits, “I learned this my rookie year. When a team is cutting in your lead, you got to get to the free-throw line, put up some points.”
The reigning MVP with a big chip on his shoulder improved his season averages to 26.7 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.8 blocks per appearance through six double-doubles in as many games. He also has 1.3 steals per contest.
Photo Credit: Getty Images