Another season and another missed opportunity for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Prior to the season shutting down in March amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Bucks were the team to beat in the NBA.

But Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks were not the same inside the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort – the Eastern Conference top seeds eliminated by the Miami Heat 4-1 in the semi-finals.

While superstar Antetokounmpo claimed back-to-back MVP honours, there are more questions than answers in Milwaukee, where the Bucks are still waiting for their first championship since 1971.

Antetokounmpo is also set to become a free agent at the end of the 2020-21 season, and he is eligible for a max contract extension worth around $254million this offseason.

As the ageing Bucks try to pick up the pieces and provide adequate support for Antetokounmpo in pursuit of NBA glory, we review Milwaukee's season using STATA data.

 

Bucks fall short… again

In 2018-19, the Bucks finished with the best regular-season record at 60-22 as Antetokounmpo earned his first MVP award. But Milwaukee went down to eventual champions the Toronto Raptors 4-2 in the Eastern Conference finals.

This season, the Bucks owned a league-best 56-17 record, but their form faded dramatically following the restart. Milwaukee became the first team in NBA history to have more losses (4-9) in their final 13 regular-season games than they did in the entire campaign prior to that (52-8).

Unconvincing against the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic in the first round, the Bucks were no match for Jimmy Butler and the red-hot Heat as their wait for a first NBA Finals appearance since 1974 goes on.

The Bucks are the second team ever to have the outright best record in the NBA two seasons in a row and not reach the Finals in either season, along with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

 

Giannis struggles from the line

For all his remarkable skill, Antetokounmpo's shooting remains an Achilles heel. The "Greek Freak" and his free-throw shooting was a lot worse this season – it was the third largest season-to-season decline in NBA history among players with at least 600 attempts in both campaigns.

In 2018-19, Antetokounmpo was 72.9 per cent from the line but he was just 63.3 per cent this season, a differential of 9.6 per cent. San Antonio Spurs great Tim Duncan tops the list with a difference of 14.3 per cent from 1999-2000 to 2000-01, ahead of Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal (13.2 per cent from 2002-03 to 2003-04).

To put things into context, Antetokounmpo missed 231 free throws during the regular season, and the Bucks' 17 losses during the regular season were by a combined 157 points.

When Giannis is shooting well from the free-throw line, the Bucks are usually winning. Over the past two seasons (regular season and playoffs), Milwaukee have a record of 61-8 (88.4 per cent) when he makes at least 70 per cent of his free throws in a game – including a 9-0 record in the playoffs. So him making more shots from the line could be a key to their future success.

 

Antetokounmpo's health and fitness

The 25-year-old, who averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during the regular season to become the first player to receive MVP honours in successive seasons since Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry in 2015 and 2016, missed Milwaukee's Game 5 loss to the Heat due to an ankle injury.

Antetokounmpo re-injured his right ankle in Game 4 but sat out the must-win clash as the Bucks departed the playoffs, despite Khris Middleton's best efforts.

Over his career, Antetokounmpo has played at least 35 minutes in less than half of his playoff games (21 of 43). Lakers superstar LeBron James (224 of 249), on the other hand, has done that in 90 per cent of his playoff games.

Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 30.4 minutes per game during the regular season. In NBA history, there has only been one team to win the NBA title without having a player average at least 32 minutes per game in the regular season: the 2013-14 Spurs.

So basically, if the Bucks are going to win a title, they are likely going to need their star player to play more minutes.

Three-point defending

As good as the Bucks are, they are obviously not without their flaws.

Three-point defense was a big issue in the regular season and playoffs in 2019-20. Milwaukee allowed 14 three-pointers per game in the regular season and 15 in the playoffs, both of which were the most in NBA history (minimum 10 games for the playoffs).

Mike Budenholzer and the Bucks have plenty to figure out heading into 2020-21.

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo does not want to be called a two-time MVP until he wins an NBA championship.

Antetokounmpo was crowned the Most Valuable Player for the second straight year after leading the Bucks to the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the league's best record (56-17) before losing in the semi-finals at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The 25-year-old, who averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during the regular season – became the first player to claim MVP honours in successive seasons since Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry in 2015 and 2016.

After winning his first MVP award last year, Antetokounmpo said: "Please, after this day don't call me MVP until I win it again next year."

But with back-to-back MVPs in 2019-20 after receiving 85 of the 101 first-place votes, Antetokounmpo – whose Bucks lost 4-1 to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semi-finals – told TNT on Friday: "Don't call me MVP until I'm a champion."

Having also been named Defensive Player of the Year, Antetokounmpo is just the third player in league history to win that award and the MVP in the same season, that select list also featuring Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

"Obviously, I'm happy for tonight and I'm happy for this award, but I always look forward," Antetokounmpo said. "I always try to figure out, how can I get better? How can I do it again? How can I do it for multiple years to come? How can I be a champion? I'm happy. I'm grateful, but how can I do it again?"

Milwaukee's failure in the postseason ramped up speculation around Antetokounmpo's future amid talk he could demand a trade.

Antetokounmpo is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2020-21 season, while he is eligible for a max contract extension worth around $254million this offseason.

"As long as everybody's fighting for the same thing ... which is to be a champion, I don't see why not to be in Milwaukee for the next 15 years," Antetokounmpo told NBA TV.

Antetokounmpo reportedly met with the Bucks last week in Milwaukee and he added: "Obviously, I would like to keep that conversation I had with the ownership and my coach and the general manager private, but at the end of the day, every team has got to improve.

"It's simple. You've got to be better than what you were last year. If you did not win the whole thing, you've got to get better. If you win the whole thing, you've got to get better and do it again. So, for now, our team has got to get better. I think we have great talent and as long as we improve individually and improve as a team we're gonna be in a good spot.

"I left the meeting encouraged and was happy with what we discussed and for now, we're on the same page. I was happy that they came and we had this long conversation about how we're gonna get better and about things for the future, but, as I said, I was happy.

"I left the conversation encouraged, but I've been encouraged my whole career in Milwaukee. I know that we've gotten better each year and I know that Milwaukee has great people that view every year the same I do every year, which is to play well, improve and win it all. So, I've always been encouraged, but after the meeting I was encouraged, too."

Another season, another Most Valuable Player award for Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo was crowned the NBA's MVP for the second straight year after leading the Bucks to the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the league's best record (56-17) before losing in the semi-finals at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The "Greek Freak" – who averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during the regular season – is the first player to claim MVP honours in successive seasons since Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry in 2015 and 2016.

After capping another dominant individual season, we look at Antetokounmpo's campaign using STATS data.

 

- Antetokounmpo is the only player that ranked in the top five in scoring and rebounding this season among qualifying players. The last player to do it on the team with the most wins in the NBA that season was Los Angeles Lakers great Shaquille O'Neal in 1999-00.

- Of all players to rank in the top five of both points per game and rebounds per game, Antetokounmpo was doing it averaging the fewest minutes per game (30.4). For context, Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid ranked in the top five last season with 33.7 minutes per game.

Antetokounmpo led the Bucks in points per game, total rebounds per game and assists per game in 2019-20. For comparison, Denver Nuggets All-Star led his team with 19.9ppg, 9.7rpg and 7.0apg.

- Antetokounmpo also did this last season and also in 2016-17. If not for team-mate Eric Bledsoe barely beating him out in assists per game in 2017-18, Antetokounmpo would have led Milwaukee in these categories for a fourth consecutive season.

- There have been 15 instances in which a player has averaged 25.0-plus points per game, 10.0-plus rebounds per game and 5.0-plus assists per game in a season. Antetokounmpo has two of these instances, this season and last term. The 25-year-old joins Russell Westbrook, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson as the only players to average these numbers in multiple seasons.

- Not since Abdul-Jabbar in 1972-73 (30.2ppg, 16.1rbg and 5.0apg) has a player enjoyed a season with 29.0-plus points per game, 13.0-plus rebounds per game and 5.0-plus assists per game. Chamberlain achieved the feat twice in 1963-64 (36.9ppg, 22.3rbg and 5.0apg) and 1965-66 (33.5ppg, 24.6rbg and 5.2apg), while Elgin Baylor had averages of 34.8ppg, 19.8rbg and 5.1apg in 1960-61.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has been named the NBA's Most Valuable Player for a second successive season.

Antetokounmpo won the award once again after leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Their 56-17 record was the best in the NBA in a season impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Antetokounmpo averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game in the regular season.

He becomes the first player to claim the MVP in successive seasons since Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors in 2015 and 2016.

Having also been named Defensive Player of the Year, Antetokounmpo is just the third player in league history to win that award and the MVP in the same season, that select list also featuring Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Antetokounmpo could not guide the Bucks to their first NBA title since 1971, however, Milwaukee coming up short in the Conference semifinals.

The Bucks were beaten 4-1 in that series by the Miami Heat, with Antetokounmpo missing the final game due to an ankle injury sustained in Game 4.

Milwaukee's failure in the postseason ramped up speculation around Antetokounmpo's future amid talk he could demand a trade.

He is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2020-21 season, while he is eligible for a max contract extension worth around $254million this offseason.

Antetokounmpo dismissed speculation of a trade, however, telling Yahoo Sports: "It's not happening. That's not happening.

"Some see a wall and go in [another direction]. I plough through it. We just have to get better as a team, individually and get right back at it next season."

LeBron James and Anthony Davis were both named in the All-NBA First Team on Wednesday as the Los Angeles Lakers prepare to face the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.

The All-NBA selections were announced as the playoffs hot up in Orlando, although the Lakers duo were the only remaining members of the First Team.

James and Davis were joined by James Harden, whose Houston Rockets they beat in the second round, along with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic.

MVP candidates James and Antetokounmpo were both unanimous votes.

The Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard and playoff nemesis Nikola Jokic headlined the Second Team. Jokic led the Nuggets past the Clippers on Tuesday to complete another remarkable series fightback.

Damian Lillard was also included after carrying the Portland Trail Blazers into the postseason, alongside veteran Chris Paul, who impressed following his trade from the Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Pascal Siakam - disappointing in the playoffs for defending champions the Toronto Raptors - made up the selection.

Meanwhile, in the Third Team, the Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum and the Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler are both still alive as Eastern Conference Finals opponents.

Russell Westbrook, part of the Paul trade, got recognition, too, and was joined by Rudy Gobert and Ben Simmons, the latter ending the season injured.

Jimmy Butler is adamant the best is still to come from the Miami Heat after they reached the NBA Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2014 by eliminating the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Heat came into the playoffs ranked fifth, making them the lowest seed to reach the Eastern Conference finals in 21 years.

The Bucks came into the playoffs as the conference's top seeds, but a 103-94 Heat victory in Tuesday's Game 5 secured a 4-1 triumph for Erik Spoelstra's team.

Butler certainly played his part in the series-clinching win, registering a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds after a shaky first quarter, and he was in a confident mood after the game.

When asked if the Heat had shown their best in the five meetings with the Bucks, Butler said: "No, I don't think so. I don't think we've played a full 48-minute game yet, and that what's promising.

"When we do lock in and decide to play from start to finish, I think the game would be a lot easier. I don't think it's happened yet, but we have to next round."

With regards to leading the team to the conference finals, Butler added: "It means a lot, but like you said, that's not my goal. That's not my guys' goal. It's not the organisation's goal.

"We want to win it, win a championship, and I think that's what we're focused on. These next eight are going to be much harder than the previous eight. We know that, but we're ready."

The Heat were boosted by Giannis Antetokounmpo missing out for the Bucks as he failed to shake off an ankle injury.

But Spoelstra was no less proud of his side, applauding them for their "journey".

"I want our guys to just step back at least for a night, if not two nights, and just reflect," Spoelstra said.

"It's not easy to get to the conference finals, and our organisation knows that. We've been trying desperately to get back to the conference finals. It's not our ultimate goal, we get it, but you can still acknowledge the journey, how hard it is to this point.

"That is why we brought Jimmy Butler here. That is why we put this team together with the veterans, adding Andre [Iguodala] and Jae [Crowder], building around Goran [Dragic] and Bam [Adebayo], having a young core.

"It was to try and do something in the playoffs. It's not easy to get to the conference finals. Otherwise, every team would be doing it."

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said he will not request a trade after his team crashed out of the NBA playoffs in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Antetokounmpo watched from the sidelines due to an ankle sprain as the top-seeded Bucks suffered a 4-1 series defeat following Tuesday's 103-94 loss to the Miami Heat.

Attention immediately turned to Antetokounmpo's future, with the reigning MVP set to become a free agent at the end of 2020-21, while he is eligible for a max contract extension worth around $254million this offseason.

But Antetokounmpo dismissed speculation, telling Yahoo Sports: "It's not happening. That's not happening.

"Some see a wall and go in [another direction]. I plow through it. We just have to get better as a team, individually and get right back at it next season."

The Bucks – eyeing a first championship since 1971 – had finished the regular season with an NBA-best 56-17 record, but Milwaukee struggled inside the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort.

"If winning a championship was easy, everyone would have one," Antetokounmpo said.

"We lost. Everyone saw that we lost. It's disappointing, but what are we going to do? We're going to keep working. I've got confidence in my team-mates."

Antetokounmpo added: "Everyone has a role to play. You see my brother, Thanasis, he's always up cheering and doing whatever he can when he's not playing. I'm no different. This is a team and I'm going to do whatever I can to help our team win games."

"I trust my team-mates," he continued. "It's supposed to be hard."

LeBron James led the way in a record-breaking performance as the Los Angeles Lakers topped the Houston Rockets 112-102 in Game 3 of the Western Conference semi-finals.

James became the all-time leader for NBA playoff wins on Tuesday with his 162nd career victory in the postseason, surpassing Derek Fisher.

The three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP finished with 36 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four blocks to help the top-seeded Lakers claim a 2-1 series lead.

Big performances from James Harden and Russell Westbrook were not enough to lift the Rockets at Walt Disney World Resort.

Meanwhile, Eastern Conference top seeds the Milwaukee Bucks bowed out of the playoffs following a 103-94 loss to the Miami Heat.

Without reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo due to an ankle sprain, the Bucks were eliminated by the fifth-seeded Heat in the second round after suffering a 4-1 series defeat.

The Heat are through to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2014.

 

Davis double-double

While James top-scored for the Lakers, All-Star team-mate Anthony Davis contributed 26 points and 15 rebounds.

It was a vintage performance from Rajon Rondo. The Lakers veteran was eight of 11 from the field and three of five from three-point range for 21 points off the bench.

Rockets star Harden fell short of a triple-double, finishing with 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Westbrook recorded 30 points.

Jimmy Butler put up 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Heat advanced.

 

Bledsoe struggles

It was a tough outing for Milwaukee's Eric Bledsoe. In 36 minutes of action, he made just two of his 12 field shots and was one of four from beyond the arc for nine points.

Eric Gordon had 10 points but on two-of-nine shooting from the field, while he converted just two of six three-point attempts.

 

Raptors face Celtics

The Boston Celtics can secure their spot in the Eastern Conference finals by beating defending champions the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 on Wednesday. They lead 3-2.

Giannis Antetokounmpo wanted to play in Game 5 against the Miami Heat, but Mike Budenholzer said there was no way the Milwaukee Bucks were going to risk their star.

Without Antetokounmpo (ankle), the Bucks bowed out of the NBA playoffs in the Eastern Conference semi-finals after a 103-94 loss to the Heat sealed a 4-1 series defeat on Tuesday.

The reigning NBA MVP was ruled out just before the game, but Bucks head coach Budenholzer said Antetokounmpo wanted to play.

"Giannis always wants to play, he's never going to pull himself and there was a plan today," he told a news conference.

"We had to look and put our heads together and listen to Giannis, but listen to our sports performance group led by Troy Flanagan and ultimately Jon Horst is our GM and myself and we couldn't let Giannis go out there. He's not ready, he's not healthy [and] we can't put him at risk.

"Giannis would always play, he wants to be there for his team-mates so really, really hard for Giannis, but I think it was pretty clear from everybody's, probably except for his, perspective what needed to happen."

The playoff exit was a disappointing finish to the campaign for the Bucks, who finished the regular season with the best record at 56-17.

Milwaukee also led the protests that saw the playoffs postponed last month as they called for justice for Jacob Blake, who was shot by police in Wisconsin.

Budenholzer was emotional when speaking about his players, saying: "I think what the team stands for and I think the character, the humanity to stand and be on the right side of history like we did led by George [Hill] and Sterling [Brown] and that was emotional and it's such a great group.

"Winning is important, we had high expectations starting the season, throughout the season, coming here, you always want to realise those expectations. But the relationships, the character, what this group did, I think it would be great if you could have both, but I think if you're going to choose one, I'd like to be with guys who had character and stand for something."

Jimmy Butler feels the Miami Heat eased up after Giannis Antetokounmpo was forced off injured as the Milwaukee Bucks staved off NBA playoff elimination with a 118-115 overtime win on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo was cleared to play late in the day having suffered an ankle sprain in Game 3 of the series, but he appeared to be moving well in the warm-up.

He was sent tumbling by Heat forward Andre Iguodala in the second quarter of Game 4, instantly clutching his ankle after he was left in a heap.

Although the NBA's reigning MVP managed to come back on for a pair of free throws, Antetokounmpo went off again straight after, with the Bucks ruling him out at half-time.

Despite such a blow, the Bucks went on to seal an overtime victory that keeps them alive in the series, having lost each of their first three clashes, and the Heat's Butler thinks they underestimated their opponents once Antetokounmpo had gone.

"Well, it shouldn't affect ours, but I think that we relaxed a little bit," the All-Star said when asked if Antetokounmpo's exit impacted the Heat's mentality.

"We stopped playing basketball the right way. We stopped guarding. We stopped living by our defensive principles. We weren't getting 50-50 balls. We were getting out-rebounded. It was just all bad."

Bam Adebayo added: "I feel like we played like we were up 3-0. That's not giving enough effort, not sacrificing our body, and we ended up losing because we were up 3-0.

"They're a good team, so at the end of the day, we should have played like we were in Game 1, Game 2 and Game 3 ... I feel like we didn't play a maximum effort the whole game."

Khris Middleton became the Bucks' inspiration in Antetokounmpo's absence, ending up with 36 points, eight assists and eight rebounds in 48 minutes on court, while he also sealed the victory with 6.9 seconds left of overtime with a three-pointer.

But he focused on the Greek star, lauding him for even getting on court in the first place.

"We know he was laying it out on the line out there for us," he said.

"His ankle was already in bad shape, and he still went out there in the first quarter in the minutes that, in the first and second quarter, however long he was out there, he gave it his all, and as a team you couldn't do nothing but respect your team-mate for giving his all out there.

"So, we had to have his back tonight, and hopefully we'll have him back again for the next game, but if not, we still have to play as hard as we can.

"We've got to fight every night to keep on playing."

Mike Budenholzer was unsure if Giannis Antetokounmpo would be fit for Game 5 against the Miami Heat, but the Milwaukee Bucks head coach's heart stopped when the star hurt his ankle.

Antetokounmpo left Sunday's 118-115 overtime victory in the second quarter after re-injuring his ankle in the NBA playoffs.

The reigning MVP had posted 19 points in less than 12 minutes before Khris Middleton inspired the Bucks with 36 points as they stayed alive in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

But there is no guarantee Antetokounmpo will be back for Game 5 on Tuesday, with the Heat still leading 3-1 at Walt Disney World Resort.

"As far as for Game 5, they're evaluating him now," Bucks Budenholzer told a news conference.

"He'll get treatment through the night and we'll just see how he does over the next 24-48 hours and no, there was no consideration about him coming back today."

While it was Middleton who ended up keeping the top-seeded Bucks alive, Antetokounmpo was in fine form before his injury.

Budenholzer praised Antetokounmpo and said the injury was a scary moment for the Bucks.

"You feel for Giannis. I hope it's not lost what he did in those first 10 or 12 minutes on an ankle that is not fully 100 per cent," he said.

"He was phenomenal to start the game and gave us a huge boost. I think they threw a big punch early and Giannis was able to keep us afloat and when he went down, all our hearts just stopped for a second."

Heat star Jimmy Butler, who finished with 17 points, felt Miami fell away after Antetokounmpo's injury.

"We relaxed a little bit. We stopped playing basketball the right way. We stopped guarding. We stopped living by our defensive principles," he said.

"We weren't getting 50-50 balls, we were getting outrebounded, it was just all bad."

Giannis Antetokounmpo was ruled out of the rest of Game 4 between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat due to a right ankle sprain in the NBA playoffs.

Bucks star Antetokounmpo sustained the injury by tangling with Andre Iguodala with 10 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the second period and left the game after shooting two free throws at Walt Disney World Resort on Sunday.

Milwaukee confirmed during half-time that the reigning MVP would not return to the floor for the rest of the Eastern Conference semi-finals clash.

Antetokounmpo appeared to be struggling with a right ankle injury during Game 3, which ended in a 115-100 defeat for the Bucks that sent them 3-0 down in the series.

The top-seeded Bucks needed to win on Sunday to keep their hopes of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals alive.

Antetokounmpo had started the game strongly in Orlando, scoring 19 points on eight-of-10 shooting to go with four rebounds and one steal.

Giannis Antetokounmpo believes NBA history is within the reach of the Milwaukee Bucks despite them falling 3-0 behind to the Miami Heat in the NBA playoffs.

The Heat moved within a game of progressing to the Eastern Conference finals with a 115-100 win over the top-seeded Bucks on Friday.

Milwaukee led by 12 points going into the final quarter but were incredibly outscored 40-13 in the final 12 minutes of Game 3 of the semifinals.

The Bucks will attempt to keep their season alive with victory in Game 4 on Sunday.

And reigning MVP Antetokounmpo, who tweaked his ankle in the first quarter but still had 21 points with 16 rebounds and nine assists, knows Milwaukee cannot afford another fourth-quarter slump.

"We played well for three quarters, we just got to be able to do that for four quarters," said Antetokounmpo.

"You've got to play hard for 48 minutes. We've got to play harder, we've got to play better."

No NBA team has overturned a 3-0 series deficit but Antetokounmpo added: "Mentally, we're in a good place. If there's a team that can beat a team four straight it can be us.

"We've just got to believe in ourselves. We can do it. We've done things before where nobody believed in us."

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Mike Budenholzer stressed the need to move on quickly after a contentious ending to the Milwaukee Bucks' defeat to the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

A breathless finish had seen Khris Middleton sink three free throws after Goran Dragic was judged to have stepped in his landing area to tie up a game in which 51 personal fouls were whistled for in Orlando.

But more drama followed when it was ruled Antetokounmpo fouled Jimmy Butler at the buzzer, with Bucks head coach Budenholzer having already used up his challenge.

Butler kept his nerve to sink the two free throws and seal a 116-114 win that sees the Heat move 2-0 in front, while it was just the third time in playoff history a game ended on free throws after time expired.

"I tried to make it tough for Jimmy," Antetokounmpo, who finished with a game-high 29 points, reflected on the decision. "The refs said there was contact there. Maybe there was, I've got to watch the play. 

"It is what it is. I tried to contest the shot, but they said there was contact there, so I've got to watch [the] play." 

The Bucks now face an uphill battle as the previous 11 teams to trail 2-0 in a best-of-seven series having recorded the best regular-season record went on to be eliminated, and Antetokounmpo issued a rallying cry to his team-mates.

"It's about us. It's always going to be about us. That's why we practice. That's why we go through our game plan. That's why we've got to come out and play harder," added Antetokounmpo, whose team also lost twice to the Heat in the regular season. 

"That's why we've got to make more shots. It's always going to be about us. It's not about what the other team is going to do. 

"It might be the Miami Heat now, next round might be a different team, next year might be a different team. It's always going to be about us.

"How can we get better? How can we not repeat the same mistakes? How can we not down the stretch make turnovers? How can we create easier shots?

"It's always going to be about us. It's never going to be about the other team that we're playing."

Budenholzer was not happy with the decisive call but followed a similar line to his star man.

"I would say we're disappointed with the judgment, with the decision, the timing," he said.

"It's a tough job. I have a lot of respect for the officials and the crew tonight. It's not an easy job, and of course we have our way of seeing things and we're going to disagree, but we need to shift our attention to Game 3 and get prepared for that. Understand that that's the most important thing right now."

Conversely, Butler had no doubt the right decision was made, saying: "It was an iso [isolated one-v-one], Goran [Dragic] made a hell of a pass on the inbound, then just wait for the clock to go out," Butler said. 

"A step-back jumper and I got fouled, [he] pushed me in the back. Can't deny that, and then I knew I had to make one out of two so I ended up, I think I made both of them and we win."

Giannis Antetokounmpo did not ask to guard Jimmy Butler as the Miami Heat star caught fire in the fourth quarter and handed the Milwaukee Bucks a shock loss in Game 1.

Butler scored 40 points – 15 of which came in the final period – as the Heat took the lead in the Eastern Conference semi-finals series with a 115-104 victory on Monday.

Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, was held to 18 points – just the sixth time this season he has been kept below 20 when playing over 30 minutes. In the fourth quarter, he scored just three points while shooting 1-of-4 from the field and the free throw line and contributing six turnovers.

The Bucks as a whole added just 18 points in the final 12 minutes, with Butler taking the game away from them and putting Miami in the driving seat.

Antetokounmpo, the 2020 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, did not consider trying to take the lead in keeping Butler at bay.

Asked if he requested to be switched onto Butler late on, Antetokounmpo replied: "To guard him? No, I didn't. Why would you ask that?"

On whether it was something he would look to do going forward, he added: "No, I'll do whatever coach tells me to do."

Although Antetokounmpo had 10 rebounds, nine assists, one steal and one block, he was restricted to just 12 shots across the game as the Heat tightened up defensively after giving away 40 points in the first quarter.

"I've just got to keep making the right play, keep playing good basketball, keep finding my team-mates," he said.

"They're going to try to build a wall this game, the next game, the whole series. I've got to keep making the right play.

"When the game is over and you look at the stat sheet and see 12 shots, you have to wonder why I didn't shoot more, could I have been more aggressive. But I think I just tried to make the right play. Win or lose, you've got to live with it."

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