Sometimes, the start of a game can be uneven or disappointing, not living up to expectations.
Other times, as in the Thursday night clash between Philadelphia and Milwaukee, it feels like a script right out of a drama. Here are five takeaways from the thrilling 118-117 win for Milwaukee over Philadelphia:
Respect comes quickly, but trust takes time
As soon as the trade news broke, the NBA world wondered what it meant for Milwaukee to pair Giannis Antetokounmpo’s unique dominance with Damian Lillard’s clutch gene in the first 3 1/2 quarters.
But bringing two alpha stars together isn’t a quick process; it’s a journey that’s only navigated through sacrifice, determination, respect, encouragement, and much more.
The Bucks’ franchise player and his new co-star, Lillard, are working to make it all happen. Following Lillard’s remarkable 39-point display, he reflected on the beginning of their training camp,
where he and Antetokounmpo engaged in such spirited discussions that it left him physically drained well into the late hours.
In similar scenarios, one common motif often emerges, and it goes something like this: ‘I’ll handle my part, and you focus on yours.
You’ve got to hold your own,'” Lillard explained. To the point that, right on the sidelines as the game was approaching its end, they were rallying behind me, saying, ‘Dame, wrap it up.’ Secure the victory!
‘What’s the plan?’ was running through my mind as I was fouled and about to step up to the free-throw line. “Come on, take control of the ball,” he gestured. He really wanted me to be the one making the final call.
Less Dame early means more Dame late
In the final 5:32 of the fourth quarter, Antetokounmpo and Lillard took over, providing all of the Bucks’ points. Lillard achieved double figures in his latest 11 appearances, logging 37 minutes – the most on the team.
However, he later remarked that it wasn’t the same kind of intense performance he had delivered multiple times during his tenure with the Trail Blazers when he was under far greater pressure.
As Lillard aptly put it, “The reality is, I don’t have to bear the complete load constantly. Typically, I have to invite the drama, whatever is happening, I have to invite it.
As soon as the game started, Chris [Middleton] was coming to me, just directing me, ‘Hey, do this.’ Brook [Lopez] was directing me. Everyone is talking; everyone has experience.”
This freed up energy, which Lillard calls “Mind Space,” and he realized it might help him become stronger throughout the entire game.
I’ve observed that this could potentially enhance my overall endurance throughout the entire game, rather than experiencing occasional fatigue.
No Harden, no problem for Sixers
James Harden, the ball-dominating scorer who no longer wants to be with the Sixers and was asked to stay home during the season-opening, two-game road trip, is still hanging over the team. But without results to worry about, they were untroubled on Thursday.
Four Sixers players scored at least 20 points, led by the magician and fast-break maestro Maxey with 31. The fourth-year guard caused constant problems for Milwaukee, either speeding up the game or pulling up for threes.
Kelly Oubre Jr. contributed 27 of his 32 points off the Sixers’ bench.
Under the leadership of new coach Nick Nurse, the team’s fast pace will undoubtedly be affected by Harden’s yo-yoing ball. Antetokounmpo also commented on the freshness of their Eastern Conference rival, saying, “This view of Philadelphia was different from before.
They were more defensive, showed more aggression, found a way to stop pick-and-roll, provided more help in the post.
Their approach had notably changed from the previous year, catching us off guard.
In a nutshell, the game showed that beginnings can be challenging, but as trust and teamwork develop, greatness can follow.
A thrilling exhibition of basketball expertise was provided by the match between Philadelphia and Milwaukee, including players like Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo showcasing their exceptional abilities and collaboration.
Ultimately, it underscores the importance of mutual respect, cultivating trust, and collaborative effort in attaining success.
A coaching clash unfolded on the sidelines as Nurse went head to head with Griffin.
For Nurse, this marked his inaugural official game as the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. Griffin was doing the same with Milwaukee. However, both had spent five seasons together in Toronto, with Griffin serving as a valuable member of Nurse’s staff from 2018 to 2023.
Interestingly, it was Nurse who, in August 2020, switched from coaching duties to Griffin, starting in the NBA bubble season in Orlando, offering some on-court experience to the former player and long-time assistant.
Nurse emphasized, “I’ve consistently held the belief that, be it in the G League or the NBA, a fundamental aspect of my role has been nurturing coaching talent.
Uplift their abilities and support them in achieving the ambitions they are pursuing in their professional journeys.
“I believe in accumulating as much experience as possible. It seemed like the perfect moment to provide him with that exposure.
Griffin pointed out, “The level of respect I have for him, he’s absolutely prepared and eager to step into the spotlight. It’s because that’s his inherent nature. I wouldn’t be here without Coach Nurse.”
A Tough Night for Kareem
The Milwaukee Bucks’ first superstar, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, saw his milestone record fall on Thursday. Antetokounmpo made 10 of his 22 shots, with several of the late catches passing Abdul-Jabbar for the most passes in franchise history.
He now has 5,905 in more than 10 seasons, three more than Kareem’s six Milwaukee seasons.
Lillard’s 39 points established the highest-scoring debut game by a Bucks player. He surpassed Terri Cummings’ 34 in 1984 and yes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 29 in 1969.
So, it was a good day for one person who extended a new contract extension to spend the next four or five years in the city and another person excited to chase his championship dream in Milwaukee.
Nonetheless, it was far from a pleasant day for the individual who was eagerly anticipating his departure to Los Angeles in 1975.