Giannis Antetokounmpo ran at full speed, chased Mikal Bridges, then soared, hitting the Phoenix forward’s fast break layup from the rebound and denying the Suns’ seemingly easy two-pointer.

The two-time league MVP did not hesitate to prove that he is healthy enough to play in the NBA Finals-and may even dominate the finals.

Antetokounmpo’s presence did not lead to a victory for the Bucks on Tuesday night, but did note that he could have a significant impact on the series. After missing two games in the Eastern Conference Finals due to knee extension, he scored 20 points, 17 rebounds and 4 assists in 35 minutes.

“Obviously, I tried not to put it on me, but it felt great,” Antetokounmpo said. “The medical staff allowed me to play. There, I kept my balance. I felt that my knee was stable. I didn’t feel any pain. I felt good.”


Highlights of the first game of the NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns

He looks good.

Antetokounmpo was a surprising starter in the first game-a seemingly problematic move-but the Bucks’ first offense in the game was a lob on him, which resulted in two free throws. In the first half, he used European footwork to avoid defenders for a layup and dunk from the bottom line; the 26-year-old had a double-double early in the third quarter.

Antetokounmpo rests during the timeout, usually with a towel over his shoulders, and does not seem to need any special treatment. Before losing 118-105 on Tuesday night, he exercised on the court and showed the Bucks officials that he was ready to play after missing out with a left knee injury.

“I don’t think he is 100%,” Bucks forward Chris Middleton said. “But he is close.”

In the post-match interview, I reminded everyone that Antetokounmpo is not an indestructible robot. He carefully climbed up the podium to answer questions, and then carefully walked down.

Antetokounmpo is known for not fussing about injuries. He has repeatedly insisted that there is no problem with his health, although he admitted that his initial reaction to the injury was “I want to rest for a year” and that his knee swelled to twice its normal size.

He said preparing for Tuesday’s knee is a 24-hour process, including treatment, weightlifting, playing on the court, pool training and keeping the knee elevated.

In the first half of Game 1 of the NBA Finals on July 6, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona, Phoenix Suns No. 25 player Mikal Bridges vs. Milwaukee Bucks No. 34 Giannis Adetto Kumbo.


In the Milwaukee Bucks’ loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 1 of the Finals, Giannis Antetokounmpo prevented Mikal Bridges from attempting to score

“I’m trying my best to avoid knee injuries,” Antetokounmpo said. “My knee feels great. Obviously, when you go to play, you never know what will happen…. I am very happy that I am there and I can help my team in any way possible. Participate in my first NBA Finals. I just want to focus on that, not on whether my knee is injured.”

The feeling of Antetokounmpo’s knee on Wednesday will arouse great interest, but it would be unwise to exclude him from the second game.

On Tuesday, he was jogging onto the court about two hours before the game, wearing a pair of big headphones. The 6-foot-11-inch athletic forward started to work immediately, dribbling the ball from the sideline, and then shot from the three-pointer.

“I think Giannis played well. I think when you miss three or four games, it may be a little difficult to reach the first game of the final and actually play like him, but I think he played well,” Bucks Team coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He looks good. His body looks good.”

Budenholzer said before the game that he was convinced that his stars could make important contributions, even if he could not score as usual.

Entering the finals, Antetokounmpo averaged 28.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists in the playoffs.

The Bucks listed Antetokounmpo as a suspicious player on Monday, but upgraded him to a suspicious player earlier on Tuesday. Bucks guard Juholidi said that Antetokounmpo experienced the team’s shooting training on Tuesday and people expect him to play.

Chris Paul and Giannis Antetokounmpo
Chris Paul and Antetokounmpo

Antetokounmpo was injured in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals when he jumped to the ground after defending a high pass from Clint Capela of Atlanta. He missed the last two games of that series.

Budenholzer said on Monday that Antetokounmpo is working on the court and making progress, but did not provide other details.

Facts have proved that the forward is going farther in health than many people expected. This is good news for the Milwaukee team, who are trying to win their second title since 1971.

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