“It’s big,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s big for our growth, growing as a team. We were in the same position last year [against the Toronto Raptors], wasn’t able to win Game 6. We have a big opportunity ahead of us, hopefully we can go to Boston and get ready for Game 7.”
Antetokounmpo did his part Thursday night scoring 31 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing out 4 assists in a 97-86 victory. After taking only 10 shots in Tuesday’s Game 5 loss, Antetokounmpo said it was “on me” to be more aggressive in the next contest. He backed up his words making several crucial plays down the stretch to lock down the victory.
“I think my team did a good job of looking for me,” Antetokounmpo said. “I was able to rebound the ball and find lanes in transition too. I was out there, I was trying to make plays, be aggressive, and that’s what I did tonight.”
Antetokounmpo’s performance, and ability to make plays when his team needed them, took a huge burden off the rest of the group.
“I thought he played great,” Bucks interim head coach Joe Prunty said of Antetokounmpo. “I don’t think he forced anything. I think he took opportunities that were there for him. He knows the spots to get to, but we also have to give him spacing around him to make sure we are in the right spots so that he has room to operate. … Overall, Giannis played an outstanding game. One of his best plays was the offensive rebound where he pretty much just jumped up, put his arms up, made a play that very few people in this league can make.”
Bucks center Thon Maker smiled while acknowledging there are still moments when Antetokounmpo makes plays that his teammates remain in awe of in games.
“He showed that tonight,” Maker said. “He proved to himself he’s comfortable where he’s at. He’s humble, he knows what he’s capable of. He said it this morning that he’s going to take shots he’s comfortable with, not shots he don’t work on. I said it this morning as well, you rarely see superstars say that. They say they’re taking all the shots, they’re going to put the team on their shoulders. There’s ways to do that, but he knows where he wants the ball, where he wants to shoot the ball from. He knows what he works on and he has a game plan. So you trust a guy like that, you trust that you’re going to get the ball back to him.”
A raucous Milwaukee crowd repeatedly chanted “MVP!” throughout the night in support of Antetokounmpo’s play while mixing in a “Bucks in 7!” chant toward the end of the game. Many fans stuck around a little longer to enjoy the postgame moment — knowing that Thursday’s game will be the last in the Bradley Center if the Bucks don’t win Game 7 in Boston. The Bucks move into a new downtown arena next season.
“It means a lot,” Antetokounmpo said. “This city has supported this team since day one. It was extremely loud tonight, and as much as we say we play for the team, we play for the city, too. This is a Game 7, this is a new opportunity for us as a team and for Milwaukee, so we got to go out there and leave everything on the line, try to get Game 7.”