Giannis Antetokounmpo had plenty of motivation Friday night.
He told reporters about his experience having to listen to Milwaukee’s home opener against the Knicks. He said he was ‘a little bit sick‘ because he was so emotional about not being there with his teammates. He missed out on all the festivity and opening night atmosphere. Even worse, he was helpless as the Bucks struggled on both ends of the court and played without much energy.
He made sure no one would be discussing a lack of intensity again early on against the Washington Wizards. He came out very sharp, scoring Mlwaukee’s first two baskets. He had a couple of early turnovers where he stepped out of bounds before starting his drive, but other than that he was fantastic and breathed life into what had been a bit of a dull team.
But he took it to another level in the second quarter when he started chirping back and forth with Gary Neal. I’m not sure what set it off, but they had some words for each other a few times and play got pretty physical at moments. Their back and forth preceded Giannis’s finest moment of the night.
It’s safe to say he was fired up after that dunk. Poor Nene. He was an innocent bystander who caught the haymaker Giannis probably wanted to throw at Gary Neal. Giannis finished the first half with 23 points and eight rebounds. He wasn’t able to sustain what was shaping up to be a unique performance into the second half, but he his first half alone was able to give Bucks fans even more reason to feel optimistic about what he’ll be able to do this season.