Last season, the Miami Heat delivered one of the most memorable upsets in recent NBA history by defeating the No. 1-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, a loss that left a bad taste in Giannis Antetokounmpo’s mouth.
The two-time MVP answered questions from ESPN and Andscape earlier this month and was asked about his thoughts on losing to the Heat in disappointing fashion in the first round of the 2023 playoffs. He stated that it wasn’t just him who had a difficult time accepting the Bucks’ fate.
“Obviously, it was hard time for us having a good regular season and going the first round and ending our season like that,” Antetokounmpo said. “And it was just unfortunate because we couldn’t catch a break and I don’t want to talk about the excuses. But obviously, it wasn’t a good feeling for the team. Everybody was in disbelief when we [lost] Game 5 at home. We were looking at one another and we were like, ‘We just lost in the first round of the playoffs.’”
As it turned out, Miami dominated the squad that finished the 2022-23 regular season with the best record and took home the inaugural edition of the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.
Of course, injuries played a role in the Bucks’ demise. However, as the Greek Freak pointed out, he didn’t want to make excuses for the series loss. Moreover, the Heat also had to deal with the injury bug in the series.
The Heat just proved to be the better team and had the best player of the series — Jimmy Butler. The six-time All-Star had an amazing five-game stretch, recording 37.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists per contest while shooting 59.7 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from beyond the arc.
As for Antetokounmpo, he played a little less than 11 minutes in Game 1 before sitting out the following two games, one of which the Bucks won. He averaged 32.0 points, 15.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists per match in the final two meetings, which Miami won by a combined seven points.
The seven-time All-Star admitted that it wasn’t a good summer for the organization but acknowledged that such failures can provide a lesson, albeit a harsh one.
“But at the end of the day, in life, sometimes that happens,” Antetokounmpo added. “And at the end of the day, what are you going to do about it? You’re going to sit down and just keep on whining about it and feeling bad about yourself, or you’re going to do something about it? And hopefully this year we can get back in this right position, same exact position, and power through that. We got to take a game at a time, but when we get to the first round be better when we lose the first game, be able to respond when we face adversity. But it wasn’t a good summer. And sometimes it’s good to have summers like that, to have kind of like a bad taste in your mouth.”
Antetokounmpo may have also served a warning to the league, saying that his team is locked in and looking to be better if it finds itself in a similar position in the postseason.
“It makes you work harder,” the superstar continued. “It makes the team even more locked-in because even though we had a good team last [season], we couldn’t advance from the first round. So, tough time for the team. And obviously because of that, a lot of changes was made from coach on. Coach Bud was together with us for five years. We won the championship together and now [we are] on to other things. But at the end of the day, again, it was a lesson and hopefully I’ll learn from it and hopefully the whole team can learn from it. Then, once we get in the same position again, we are better.”
What the Bucks have going for them is the arrival of Damian Lillard, whom the Heat also targeted this offseason. The superstar duo has Milwaukee among the favorites to win the title this season. However, Miami will surely want to rain on its parade again if the two sides meet again in the playoffs.