Giannis Antetokounmpo strolled to the post-game podium carrying a book of dad jokes. He smiled and said: “What do you call a cow on the floor?” Reporters went dead silent. “Anybody know?,” Antetokounmpo asked.
Again, silence. “Ground beef” was the reply. Then, the two-time MVP slammed the book down on the table and said: “That’s it. Next one, New York.”
His Milwaukee Bucks were set to touch down in Brooklyn next for a showdown against the Nets. About an hour earlier, Antetokounmpo had made minced meat out of the Philadelphia 76ers during a 118-116 victory. Joel Embiid was the metaphorical “ground beef” in that one after Antetokounmpo swatted away his potential game-tying layup off a James Harden miss.
The highlight-reel play was initially ruled goaltending, then got overturned. Game over. Don’t “play the song.” Antetokounmpo did the majority of his damage during a 6-minute stretch between the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth when he scored 15 points. And the Bucks went on a 19-11 run to take the lead, all while Embiid was sitting helplessly on the bench.
“When he was on the bench and wasn’t in the game, I was able to get driving layups, get downhill, get to the paint, get to my spot,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s basketball. I’m not thinking that because Joel [Embiid] or James Harden or whoever is not on the court I should go now. I just try to play the game the right way, and with aggression, and make good decisions. And whatever happens, whatever the outcome is I live with.”
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Embiid Questions Gameplan in Fourth Quarter
The block heard ’round the Delaware Valley happened with 1.6 seconds left in the fourth. Antetokounmpo came flying in out of nowhere to block Embiid, like an unfriendly neighborhood Spiderman with serious ups. But the Bucks seized momentum earlier in the frame with Embiid watching an overmatched Paul Millsap trying to contain the Greak Freak.
“I mean, I was on the bench the whole time,” Embiid said. “When I was on the floor, I really made sure I was always there to help. I thought we didn’t follow up that strategy, we didn’t build a wall, and he had a lot of freedom to just attack and get whatever he wanted. That changed the game. Maybe next time, just match up the minutes.”
The Sixers’ big man checked back in with 9:22 showing in the fourth; Jrue Holiday’s reverse layup at the 7:21 mark gave the Bucks a 101-100 lead. They wouldn’t trail again.
“Great defense, great contest,” Holiday said of the game-saving block. “I tried to box out Joel, he’s a big dude but the ball came to him and Giannis just being Giannis made a great play and saved the game.”
No Silver Linings After Tough Sixers’ Loss
The Sixers have now lost two straight games to the final two squads standing from the 2021 Finals. The difference in those defeats was a combined 12 points. So, the optimist sees a rising team capable of knocking off the NBA’s elite, one ready to take the next step in their championship quest.
“Great test for us, great, great,” James Harden said. “We didn’t win both of them games, but we really gave ourselves a chance. We played pretty solid games; we just had some missed lapses during the course of those games.”
Meanwhile, head coach Doc Rivers doesn’t believe in participation trophies. Or silver linings.
“I guess. I don’t,” Rivers said when asked about silver linings. “I won’t go home with any silver [linings] but listen, I didn’t lose confidence by playing these two teams, I’ll put it that way.”