NBA

NBA playoffs 2021: Bucks label Giannis 'day-to-day' ahead of Finals

By Sports Desk July 04, 2021

Giannis Antetokounmpo was as active as he could be during the Milwaukee Bucks' decisive Game 6 win over the Atlanta Hawks. 

Missing a second consecutive game after hyperextending his left knee, the Greek star paced the sidelines throughout the game, exhorting his team-mates on while wearing a mask on his face and a sleeve on his knee. 

Now that the Bucks have advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974, the key question will be whether Antetokounmpo will be in the lineup for Tuesday's series opener at the Phoenix Suns. 

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer had no interest in exploring that topic following the win, saying only that it would be an ongoing conversation with the team's medical staff over the next few days. 

"You have to listen to the player and then you have to listen to the sports performance group, and at some point [general manager] Jon Horst and myself are part of the conversations, but it's just a day-to-day thing," Budenholzer told reporters. 

"We'll update it when appropriate. The conversations between he and myself and he and the sports performance group, it's kind of private and we'll see where he is each day."

Despite the ongoing questions about Antetokounmpo's availability in the Finals, Budenholzer took time to appreciate his star's enthusiasm even when he is unable to take the court. 

"He's coming off the bench, he's halfway on the court, talking to Bobby [Portis], talking to Brook [Lopez], talking to different players; to see that kind of leadership, that kind of connection, that kind of commitment from a player you know would be dying to be out there and playing," Budenholzer said.

"I just loved his energy on the bench. I loved his just togetherness that he brings to our group.

"And there's a bittersweetness to him not being able to play these last two games, but I think he understands that there's a way we want to play basketball and there's a kind of team and organisation that we want to be able to play and just play ball, and he's a big part of that.

"But if he were to miss a game or if he's on the bench for whatever reason, we need to be able to play and we need to have guys that have confidence and we need to be able to get stops and do all the things that go into winning.

"While he's incredibly important to us, I think he appreciates what his teammates can do. And we certainly do as an organisation appreciate what he did, and then what everybody else was able to do tonight and the other night without him."

Saturday night, it was Khris Middleton's 32 points and Jrue Holiday's 27 that ensured Antetokounmpo would at least have a chance to return. 

Even if Antetokounmpo is not ready to open the series against the Suns, his team-mates appreciated the effort he gave on the sidelines tin Game 6.

"This is probably the most I've seen Giannis talk, like the whole game," Holiday said. "I know usually when he's on the court and he's running, racing through five people and blocking shots, you're tired. He's tired and he's playing.

"But man, he's motivating everybody, he's motivating me, telling me to push the pace, telling me to keep being aggressive and telling me to lock people up.

"I feel what he brought to the game today and how he led us - again, he is pretty quiet, but how talkative he's been has been awesome for us and very, very encouraging."

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    Damian Lillard predicted Team USA's stunning defeat to France at the Tokyo Olympics would be portrayed as "the end of the world" but vowed the gold medal was still a target.

    The Portland Trail Blazers star was one of a host of under-performing players in blue as Gregg Popovich's team were beaten 83-76 at the Saitama Super Arena.

    France's shock win meant the US team's 25-game winning streak in men's basketball at the Olympics came to an end, raising doubts about their ability to challenge for glory at these Games.

    Exhibition defeats to Australia and Nigeria ahead of the Olympics getting underway were red flags, but most expected the Americans to find match-winning form once the stakes were raised.

    "I think we have a history of dominance and, maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning," Lillard said.

    "It's not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start. So, I think that's why a lot of people make it seem like the end of the world.

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    Evan Fournier of the Boston Celtics starred with 28 points for France.

    Fournier began the 2020-21 NBA season with the Orlando Magic and averaged 19.7 points per game, before that figure dropped to 13.0 for his outings with the Celtics following a trade in March.

    Here he served up a reminder of how he can perform, and the US opposition suffered.

    Lillard, who made just three of his 10 field-goal attempts, said: "You know who we see each night sometimes in the NBA, they are completely different when they play for their countries.

    "They got more freedom, and the comfort level is obvious. So we put ourselves in a dogfight, and they made plays to win it."

    Kevin Durant called it "a make-or-miss game".

    "And we didn't hit the shots that we were supposed to late in the game in the fourth quarter, but I think we will be better next game," Durant, who scored 10 points, added.

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    Team USA have won the last three gold medals at the Olympics, and Bam Adebayo, who scored 12 points and had a team-high 10 rebounds, pointed to French desire for a slice of such glory as being a telling factor on Sunday.

    "You can definitely tell they're tired of the USA winning," Adebayo said. "Everybody wants that feeling of getting that gold medal. And we can't rely on talent all the time to just bring us home."

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    Sunday was a positive day on the whole for Team USA – especially compared to Saturday, when they failed to win a medal on the opening day of a Games for the first time since Munich 1972 – as they picked up four gold, two silver and four bronze.

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    Biles, who won four golds and a bronze in Rio, was penalised on both floor and vault but still scored a respectable 14.166 to book a spot in the final.

    While Biles still has time on her side, both in Tokyo and in the long term, the 2020 Games will be the last for Uzbekistan's Oksana Chusovitina, who bowed out on Sunday after a record-setting eighth appearance at the Olympics.

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    "It was really nice. I cried tears of happiness because so many people have supported me for a long time," she said. "I didn't look at the results, but I feel very proud and happy. I'm saying goodbye to sports. It's kind of mixed feelings.

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    Older brother Hifumi made it a family double, overcoming Vazha Margvelashvili of Georgia to triumph in the men's 66kg final.

    "This has turned out to be the greatest day ever," he said. "I don't think we, as brother and sister, could shine any brighter on this stage known as the Tokyo Olympics. I'm so happy."

     

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    Though she missed her eagle putt, Lee nudged in for a birdie to cap a comeback which matches the previous best in a woman's major.

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    Jeongeun Lee, the 2019 US Open champion, let her lead slip on the front nine, though recovered to have an opportunity to win with an eagle putt, which she failed to take.

    American teenager Yealimi Noh missed out on the play-off by a shot, with Japan's Akaya Furue two strokes further back, ahead of Atthaya Thitikul at the Evian Resort Golf Club.

    "I never thought about winning while playing, I just tried to make as many birdies as I could, I saw the leaderboard maybe once or twice," a jubilant Lee said.

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