NBA

Giannis and Lillard 'surprised' by Griffin firing

By Sports Desk January 25, 2024

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard expressed their surprise at the firing of Bucks coach Adrian Griffin after Milwaukee won its first game since the decision.

There was a third triple-double in four games for Giannis as Milwaukee ended the Cleveland Cavaliers’ eight-game winning streak on Wednesday with a 126-116 home victory.

Antetokounmpo had 35 points, a season high-tying 18 rebounds and 10 assists for his seventh triple-double this season. He came up one assist shy of having four consecutive triple-doubles after he had 31 points, 10 boards and nine assists in Saturday’s win at Detroit.

Joe Prunty served as Milwaukee’s interim head coach after Griffin was fired on Tuesday despite the Bucks leading the Central Division with a 30-13 record, putting them second in the Eastern Conference. The team was finalising negotiations with Doc Rivers to take over.

Lillard added 28 points and Khris Middleton had 24 for the Bucks, winners of six in seven, as Cleveland lost despite Donovan Mitchell scoring 23 points and Jarrett Allen having 21 and 12 assists.

Two-time MVP Giannis was not expecting the decision to fire first-year coach Griffin, but stressed he trusted the front office.

"Their job is to create the best team possible and the best atmosphere around the team possible that they believe gives us a better chance to win a championship," Giannis said to ESPN. 

"But yeah, I do think [firing coach Griffin] was a surprise.

"I've got to trust the front office, I've got to trust the ownership group that they consider the bigger picture. My job is to be the best version of myself, to lead this team out there and help win games."

Giannis had expressed concerns over the Bucks’ performances this season but stressed he had no personal issues with Griffin.

"I loved the guy, I invited him to my wedding," Antetokounmpo said. ""I was coached by him and we did very, very, very well.

"When somebody is being hired, the GM might come and ask, 'What do you think about that? What do you think about this?' or whatever and not just me – players and people that he trusts their advice. 

"But at times they make it seem like it's the players that are making the decision.

"For a coach like Griff, from Day 1, everything was about togetherness. He was always leading this group into the direction we set at the beginning of the year. 

"Him not being here, at the end of the day, we’re humans. It hurts everybody. But we’ve got to keep on moving forward. We have a goal in our head, which is to be the best basketball team that we can be."

Lillard had a similar view to Giannis that the news was unexpected, though has agreed the Bucks could be playing better.

"There's been a lot of expectations on our team," he said. "Things have been expected to look a certain way. We've had a bumpy road to our success, which is sometimes a part of the process. 

"I was surprised. But it's part of the game. People get traded, people get waived, people get fired, and that's never something you want to see."

The Bucks never trailed in a win which avenged their 40-point loss in Cleveland last week and the teams will play again on Friday.

"Our experience really worked in our favor in this situation,” added Lillard. "We have all experienced a lot of things.

"I think this was different for everybody, but we just understood we had a game tonight, and it was going to be a tough game against a really good team that kind of handled us the last time we played them."

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