NBA

Giannis still feels 'a step behind' as perfection-seeking Bucks superstar sets blocks record

By Sports Desk December 11, 2021

Giannis Antetokounmpo remains driven to keep improving for the Milwaukee Bucks after chalking up a new franchise record in the 123-114 win over the Houston Rockets.

Antetokounmpo had 41 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks as he became Milwaukee's all-time leader in the latter category, surpassing Alton Lister (804).

The defending NBA champions halted Houston's seven-game winning streak behind a monster performance from their star man.

Khris Middleton and Bobby Portis weighed in with 21 points apiece for the Bucks, who improved to 17-10 this season.

Asked afterwards about his new landmark achievement, Antetokounmpo said in a news conference: "It's big-time. Great compliment to my career. But I've gotta keep getting better, gotta keep defending better.

"I feel like sometimes I'm a step behind. I've gotta be there early for my team-mates, gotta make sure they know that I'm behind them and I'm ready to help them in any scenario.

"But it's great. It's great to have something like that in my career, but I gotta keep on moving forward, keep on getting better, keep on helping my team-mates win games."

His showing against Houston represented a major gear shift following a lacklustre display in the midweek defeat to the Miami Heat, in which Antetokounmpo managed just 15 points and six rebounds. Only once this season has he ended a game with fewer points.

He is averaging 27.6 points and 11.8 rebounds this season, with his shooting accuracy from the field dipping slightly from 56.9 per cent last term to 53.4 per cent, his lowest since the 2017-18 campaign.

Antetokounmpo seems to have a firm grip on how he can take steps forward and enacted his plan against Houston.

"I just tried to be aggressive, tried to get downhill," he said. "In the last game I wasn't as aggressive as I wanted. I wanted to be aggressive, the team wanted me to be aggressive and it kind of worked out in our favour tonight."

The 27-year-old Greek star was the Finals MVP last season and will have aspirations to take the Bucks deep into the play-offs again this time.

He spoke after this latest tussle of his admiration for the Rockets, who rebounded from a 15-game losing streak to put seven consecutive wins together before this setback.

"They're playing great. We knew coming in today they're going to play extremely hard against us and try to prove themselves," said Antetokounmpo.

"They don't have a big star, a superstar that takes all the possessions. They have to play together, they have to shoot the ball real well, they have to put themselves in position to be successful. They defend really well and if they keep playing like this they're going to keep getting better each year."

The Bucks have had five 40/15/5 games since the three-point era (1980) – Antetokounmpo has all five.

Related items

  • Kevin Durant requests trade away from Nets Kevin Durant requests trade away from Nets

    Kevin Durant has requested a trade away from the Brooklyn Nets, according to widespread reports.

    With free agency due to start later on Thursday, the day's biggest story is certain to centre around the former MVP.

    Durant is under contract until 2026, but ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said Nets general manager Sean Marks was working with the player and his business manager Rich Kleiman to find a trade.

    The 12-time All-Star forward is now 33 yet would command a huge trade package.

    Wojnarowski described Durant as "one of the most valuable trade assets ever on the market". He added the Nets had taken calls and would expect "a historic return on players and draft picks".

    The Phoenix Suns and the Miami Heat have been listed among potential destinations.

    Murmurings of discontent around Durant, who joined the Nets from the Golden State Warriors in a 2019 sign-and-trade, had emerged in recent weeks.

    Durant had sought to turn the Nets into a contender when he and close friend Kyrie Irving went to Brooklyn, where they were later joined by James Harden.

    But the 'big three' did not deliver, and Harden was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers last season as Irving spent an extended period on the sideline after refusing a coronavirus vaccine.

    Irving eventually returned to play and has opted in to his contract with the Nets, but Durant now appears determined to force his way out.

    The two-time champion and two-time Finals MVP would likely make any suitors a major threat in the 2022-23 season.

  • Pistons buying out veteran PG Walker Pistons buying out veteran PG Walker

    The Detroit Pistons and Kemba Walker are finalising a contract buyout that will allow the four-time All-Star to enter free agency, ESPN reported on Thursday.

    The move was expected after the rebuilding Pistons acquired Walker from the New York Knicks last week as part of a three-team trade that also netted Detroit rookie big man Jalen Duran, the 13th overall pick of this year’s draft.

    Walker was due to earn nearly $9.2million in the final season of a two-year, $18m contract the New York City native signed with the Knicks last summer.

    It is the second straight year Walker has had his contract bought out after being traded. The 32-year-old point guard was dealt from Boston to Oklahoma City in June 2021, with Walker later agreeing to relinquish $20m of the nearly $74m he was owed on his former deal to become a free agent.

    Walker played in only 37 games during his lone season with the Knicks and averaged a career-low 11.4 points per game while shooting just 40.3 per cent from the field.

    He fell out of coach Tom Thibodeau’s rotation in November and did not play at all after the All-Star break due to chronic knee problems that had hampered him in previous years as well.

    The former University of Connecticut standout has not appeared in more than 56 games in any of the past three seasons, though he was an All-Star as recently as 2019-20 when he averaged 20.4 points and 4.8 assists per game in his first of two seasons with the Celtics.

    New York and Detroit have been active trade partners this offseason, with the Knicks also sending veterans Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel to the Pistons in a separate deal.

    The move cleared nearly $20m of cap space for the Knicks, who are expected to make a strong push for Dallas Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson in free agency.

  • Wimbledon: Kyrgios 'wanted to remind everyone that I'm pretty good' as he sets up Tsitsipas showdown Wimbledon: Kyrgios 'wanted to remind everyone that I'm pretty good' as he sets up Tsitsipas showdown

    Nick Kyrgios took a swipe at his critics after storming to a mesmerisingly brilliant second-round win at Wimbledon, setting up an appetising clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

    The 27-year-old Australian was largely all business and no nonsense as he won 6-2 6-3 6-1 in one hour and 25 minutes against 26th seed Filip Krajinovic, delivering the kind of performance that underlines his potential threat at this tournament.

    Yet Kyrgios had been far from his best against British player Paul Jubb in round one, eventually forcing victory by taking a tight fifth set, and his on-court behaviour came in for close scrutiny too in that match.

    Against Jubb, a line judge was prompted to speak to the chair umpire about Kyrgios, whose demands for some fans to be removed were punctuated by spitting towards a section of the crowd upon victory.

    Kyrgios spoke after that match of receiving "a lot of disrespect" from the crowds, while he also jousted with journalists in a news conference, before being angered by what he read afterwards.

    Sinking Queen's Club runner-up Krajinovic in such a classy fashion was described by the unseeded Kyrgios as his response.

    "I was pretty disappointed in my performance in the first round. Then obviously the media's disrespect and just everything, it was just kind of a reminder to put you all back in your place from the performance today," Kyrgios said. "He made finals at Queen's, top 30 in the world, seeded. It's a gentle reminder."

    Kyrgios hit 50 winners and made only 10 unforced errors, saying in an on-court interview that he had displayed "great body language".

    "I just wanted to remind everyone that I'm pretty good," he said, with a deliberately straight face.

    "I'm just happy. I've been working hard and I've been preparing for this tournament. It's been circled on my calendar pretty much all year, and I'm so excited to be here again.

    "I think it's my best chance to win a grand slam of all the four [majors], and I'll keep taking it match by match. I've got an incredibly tough draw still, and today I couldn't have played better and now I can just recover and get ready."

    Awaiting Kyrgios in round three is Tsitsipas, a straight-sets winner on Thursday against another Australian, Jordan Thompson.

    Kyrgios holds a 3-1 winning head-to-head advantage over Tsitsipas in their previous meetings, coming out on top when they met at Halle just a fortnight ago.

    That recent match means Tsitsipas has it fresh in his mind what it might take to topple Kyrgios, and the Greek fourth seed told a news conference: "He claims to like grass and his game is good for the grass.

    "I am thrilled to be facing him. I respect him a lot on the court and what he is trying to do. Even though he has been a little controversial in the past, I think he's playing good tennis.

    "I'm going to concentrate on doing my own thing and pay attention to my own game from start to finish. Hopefully I can have a great competitive match against him."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.