ORLANDO • Despite enduring another National Basketball Association (NBA) season of disappointment, Giannis Antetokounmpo ensured all is not lost for the Bucks.
The forward effectively pledged to stay at Milwaukee following the top seeds’ 4-1 elimination by the Miami Heat in their Eastern Conference semi-final series with a 103-94 loss on Tuesday.
It was not the Disney World ending the Bucks (56-17) had anticipated in Orlando after finishing the regular season with the league’s best record for the second straight year.
Antetokounmpo, who is set to collect his second straight NBA Most Valuable Player Award in the coming days, did not play in Game 5. He sprained his right ankle in Game 3 and aggravated the injury early in Game 4.
“The Greek Freak” averaged career highs of 29.5 points and 13.6 rebounds per game this season and his teammates could not compensate for his absence.
Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 23 points. But the Heat held them to 36.3 per cent shooting, including a third-quarter drought that lasted over six minutes.
Heat star Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic scored 17 points apiece while teammates Jae Crowder, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Herro also scored in double figures.
Butler, who added 10 rebounds and six assists and was a perfect eight-for-eight from the foul line, said: “It was tough… Obviously they missed their MVP. But we knew we were going to have to get one out of the mud and I think this was the one.”
Last season, the Bucks lost to eventual champions Toronto Raptors in the conference finals, raising questions about Antetokounmpo’s future.
The 25-year-old could become an unrestricted free agent after next season if he decides against signing a contract extension this off-season. But he revealed he will not force a trade out of Milwaukee.
“It’s not happening. That’s not happening,” Antetokounmpo told Yahoo Sports. “Some see a wall and go in (another direction). I plough through it. We just have to get better as a team, individually and get right back at it next season.”
In the Western Conference, LeBron James scored a team-high 36 points and became the all-time leader in NBA post-season wins as the Los Angeles Lakers claimed a 112-102 win over the Houston Rockets in Game 3 of their semi-finals.
The Lakers take a 2-1 lead into Game 4 of the best-of-seven series today. James’ 162nd play-off victory topped the record set by former Laker Derek Fisher.