NBA

NBA playoffs 2021: Bucks label Giannis 'day-to-day' ahead of Finals

By Sports Desk July 04, 2021

Giannis Antetokounmpo was as active as he could be during the Milwaukee Bucks' decisive Game 6 win over the Atlanta Hawks. 

Missing a second consecutive game after hyperextending his left knee, the Greek star paced the sidelines throughout the game, exhorting his team-mates on while wearing a mask on his face and a sleeve on his knee. 

Now that the Bucks have advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974, the key question will be whether Antetokounmpo will be in the lineup for Tuesday's series opener at the Phoenix Suns. 

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer had no interest in exploring that topic following the win, saying only that it would be an ongoing conversation with the team's medical staff over the next few days. 

"You have to listen to the player and then you have to listen to the sports performance group, and at some point [general manager] Jon Horst and myself are part of the conversations, but it's just a day-to-day thing," Budenholzer told reporters. 

"We'll update it when appropriate. The conversations between he and myself and he and the sports performance group, it's kind of private and we'll see where he is each day."

Despite the ongoing questions about Antetokounmpo's availability in the Finals, Budenholzer took time to appreciate his star's enthusiasm even when he is unable to take the court. 

"He's coming off the bench, he's halfway on the court, talking to Bobby [Portis], talking to Brook [Lopez], talking to different players; to see that kind of leadership, that kind of connection, that kind of commitment from a player you know would be dying to be out there and playing," Budenholzer said.

"I just loved his energy on the bench. I loved his just togetherness that he brings to our group.

"And there's a bittersweetness to him not being able to play these last two games, but I think he understands that there's a way we want to play basketball and there's a kind of team and organisation that we want to be able to play and just play ball, and he's a big part of that.

"But if he were to miss a game or if he's on the bench for whatever reason, we need to be able to play and we need to have guys that have confidence and we need to be able to get stops and do all the things that go into winning.

"While he's incredibly important to us, I think he appreciates what his teammates can do. And we certainly do as an organisation appreciate what he did, and then what everybody else was able to do tonight and the other night without him."

Saturday night, it was Khris Middleton's 32 points and Jrue Holiday's 27 that ensured Antetokounmpo would at least have a chance to return. 

Even if Antetokounmpo is not ready to open the series against the Suns, his team-mates appreciated the effort he gave on the sidelines tin Game 6.

"This is probably the most I've seen Giannis talk, like the whole game," Holiday said. "I know usually when he's on the court and he's running, racing through five people and blocking shots, you're tired. He's tired and he's playing.

"But man, he's motivating everybody, he's motivating me, telling me to push the pace, telling me to keep being aggressive and telling me to lock people up.

"I feel what he brought to the game today and how he led us - again, he is pretty quiet, but how talkative he's been has been awesome for us and very, very encouraging."

Related items

  • Australia 30-17 South Africa: Ikitau and Koroibete lead Wallabies to victory Australia 30-17 South Africa: Ikitau and Koroibete lead Wallabies to victory

    Australia got the better of South Africa for the second week running as Len Ikitau and Marika Koroibete led the Wallabies to a 30-17 victory in the Rugby Championship.

    Having triumphed 28-26 over the Springboks on the Gold Coast last week, Australia came out on top again in Saturday's tussle in Brisbane.

    The victory takes Australia to within one point of the second-place Springboks on 10 points, who are five behind leaders and reigning champions New Zealand, who face Argentina in the later game.

    Quade Cooper was the star for Australia last time out, converting eight kicks, though he missed his first two-pointer here after Ikitau had crossed following Faf de Klerk's early booking for knocking the ball from Nic White's hands.

    Handre Pollard pulled the 'Boks to within two points with a long-range penalty, though Australia swiftly struck again, Ikitau once more finding the gap and this time Cooper hit his mark from the conversion.

    Pollard hit another two penalties either side of a Cooper three-pointer as, back to their full count, South Africa attempted to turn the screw, yet even with Lachlan Swinton seeing yellow (after initially being given a red card for a high tackle) the visitors could not prise Australia's defence open before the break.

    Lukhanyo Am finally managed to do so just after the break to nose South Africa ahead for the first time, but it was a short-lived lead, Cooper winning a penalty and converting it before Koroibete steamed in for his first.

    Cooper made no mistake and, five minutes later, Koroibete helped himself to his second to wrap up the result – Jasper Wiese's late yellow adding more frustration for the Springboks.

    No place like home

    Australia are now undefeated in their past seven men's Tests against South Africa on home soil (W6, D1), although Saturday is the first time they have won by a margin of seven points or more in that span. It is also the first time the Wallabies have earned back-to-back wins in men's international rugby since October 2019.

    South Africa's resistance stutters

    Heading into the match, South Africa had conceded just 13 points in the final quarters of games in the tournament, fewer than any other team. However, Australia had scored the most points (27) in the last 20 minutes, and they took that tally to 39 with their 12 points scored between the 62nd and 68th minutes, breaking the Springboks' resolve in the process.

  • Juventus v Milan: Szczesny and defences in spotlight as Serie A history beckons Juventus v Milan: Szczesny and defences in spotlight as Serie A history beckons

    For so long, Juventus dominated Serie A and Milan. 

    Juve won nine successive Scudetti before being dethroned by Inter last season. Gianluigi Buffon was involved in eight of them. 

    But it's a period of change in Turin, where Wojciech Szczesny is well and truly under the microscope after an error-riddled start to the 2021-22 season. 

    As Juve struggle defensively, form could hardly be more contrasting heading into Sunday's blockbuster showdown in the northwest of Italy. 

    Milan have continued to be a solid defensive outfit, winning their opening three league fixtures, and the resurgent Rossoneri could strike an early dagger to the heart of the Old Lady.

     

    Woeful Woj as Allegri tries to avoid unwanted record 

    "I think Juventus will regret not signing Donnarumma for a long time." 

    That was Mino Raiola – the agent of Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma – speaking to Rai Sport on Friday. Based on what has transpired so far, he is right. 

    The star Italy goalkeeper had been tipped to swap Milan for Juve in the off-season before moving to the French capital on a free transfer. Juve must be shaking their heads after watching Szczesny's torrid start to the season under Massimiliano Allegri. 

    Allegri has had his hands full since returning to Allianz Stadium after two seasons away, replacing Andrea Pirlo. The title-winning boss is trying to navigate the exit of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. If the departure of the almost-irreplaceable Ronaldo was not hard enough, Szczesny has made life even more difficult. 

    The former Arsenal keeper has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, his two howlers against Udinese and Napoli the catalyst for Juve's winless start to the campaign. 

    The Bianconeri could go without a victory in their first four Serie A seasonal matches for the fourth time in their history, after 1961-62, 1955-56 and 1942-43. In those campaigns, Juve did not go on to win the title. They have never lost three of the first four Serie A games in a season. 

    They have conceded five goals in three matches and are yet to keep a clean sheet domestically, shipping goals in each of their past 17 league games – only twice have Juve conceded in more consecutive Serie A fixtures (19 in 2010 and 21 in 1955). That 17-game run is the worst of its kind across the top-five European leagues since March. 

    Szczesny's numbers do not make for pretty reading.

    Since 2018-19, the Poland international has conceded 90 goals in 90 Serie A appearances with expected goals against (xGA) of 99.88, suggesting he should have let in nearly 10 goals more. For some comparison, Buffon's xGA-goals conceded difference – goals he prevented, in other words –was 2.62 from 17 matches, so Szczesny holds his own there.

    The numbers do not get much better, though. A maligned figure from his days at Arsenal, Szczesny has shipped 99 goals in 107 Serie A games for Juve. Since 1994-95, his average of 0.93 goals conceded is worse than ex-Juve goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar (0.70 from 46 goals conceded in 66 games), Buffon (0.76 from 373 conceded in 489 matches), Michelangelo Rampulla (0.85 from 33 conceded in 39 fixtures) and Angelo Peruzzi (0.85 from 120 conceded in 141 appearances).

    Szczesny – with a save percentage of 72 and an average of 2.49 stops per 90 minutes – has committed three errors leading to goals during his time with Juve in Serie A. Since 2004-05, only Buffon managed more (13), albeit in 391 games.

    This season, Szczesny's expected goals against is 5.86 through three matches. Milan counterpart Mike Maignan's figure stands at 2.33.

    When Milan refused to meet Donnarumma's demands, they wasted little time turning to Maignan, who had just led Lille to a shock Ligue 1 title after upstaging PSG.

    Maignan has been a steady presence in Milan with a joint-league-high two clean sheets, while the France international tops the list in save percentage (90), well ahead of Szczesny (66.67).

     

    Kjaer spearheading Milan back to summit

    While Juve duo Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt lick their wounds, Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori continue to flex their muscles at San Siro.

    In the era of three points per win, Milan have won each of their first four Serie A seasonal games only twice: in 1995-96 under Fabio Capello and last season with Stefano Pioli at the helm. The Rossoneri won the title in 1996, while they finished second to Inter in 2020-21.

    High-flying Milan are on the cusp of matching that feat thanks to the help of Kjaer and Tomori and perhaps even more than that as the resurgent powerhouse dream of a first Scudetto since 2011.

    Kjaer and Tomori have formed an unlikely but rock-solid partnership at the heart of Milan's defence. Pioli's side have only conceded one goal to start the Serie A season. Since last May, Milan have the most clean sheets in the big five European leagues (seven in eight matches).

    The pair's form has left captain Alessio Romagnoli sidelined and considering his future – not something you would have anticipated when Kjaer arrived following a brief spell at Atalanta, initially on loan in 2020.

    Kjaer has come into his own in Milan, establishing himself as a key member on and off the pitch under Pioli, tallying 178 clearances in the league since January 2020 – a number only behind Torino's Bremer (219), Omar Colley of Sampdoria (214), Fiorentina star Nikola Milenkovic (205), ex-Viola centre-back German Pezzella (191) and Lazio's Francesco Acerbi (190) among defenders.

    The 32-year-old Denmark international has also provided security in the air, with his 93 headed clearances the fourth most among defenders since January 2020, after Milenkovic (122), Bremer (119) and Colley (103).

    "It happens a lot with defenders that they kind of find their own style later on. That has happened with Simon," former Denmark international Jesper Olsen told Stats Perform.

    "You're playing at a top team and expected to do really well. We know your last game played doesn't count anymore, it's the next one. He just seems very settled."

    Tomori, who completed a permanent switch from Champions League holders Chelsea in July after impressing on loan, scored the last time these two teams met – a 3-0 victory in Turin in May.

    Milan have won two of their most recent three Serie A matches against Juventus, as many as in their previous 17 (D1 L14).

  • McNealy leads Fortinet Championship, world number one Rahm misses cut McNealy leads Fortinet Championship, world number one Rahm misses cut

    Maverick McNealy soared to the top of the leaderboard at the halfway stage of the Fortinet Championship, but John Rahm's PGA Tour season debut ended in the world number one missing the cut.

    McNealy earned a two-stroke lead following the second round of the 2021-22 season opener at Silverado Country Club, where the 25-year-old American carded an eight-under-par 64.

    It is McNealy's lowest opening 36-hole score (68-64) on the PGA Tour.

    However, Spanish star Rahm failed to qualify for the weekend after back-to-back rounds in the 70s in Napa, California.

    Tuning up for the Ryder Cup, Rahm – who missed Wednesday's pro-am due to a stomach ailment, having placed second in the FedEx Cup play-offs – never got going, an opening-round 72 followed by a 71 as he finished one under, below the three-under cut line.

    "I get to rest a couple extra days and be able to figure out what's going on with my swing, which technically is not really anything bad," said Rahm, who recorded his 13th missed cut in his 113th PGA Tour start, with his last missed cut at this year's Wells Fargo Championship.

    "It's just I think a lot of those swings were made to look worse because of how tough it is out there."

    Beau Hossler (64) and Mito Pereira (67) are tied for second and two shots adrift of McNealy heading into Saturday's third round, while Troy Merritt (68), Will Zalatoris (67) and Bronson Burgoon (67) are a stroke further back at nine under.

    Rookie David Lipsky's second-round 64 was a nine-stroke improvement on his first round and a career-low round that included nine birdies, the most he has managed in a single round on Tour.

    Lipsky is seven under through 36 holes, alongside the likes of Tom Hoge (66) and Peter Malnati (66), while Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is a shot back following his three-under-par 69.

    Six-time major champion Phil Mickelson posted a 69 to be tied for 24th and seven shots off the pace.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.