MILWAUKEE — As Giannis Antetokounmpo continues carving out a path for himself as one of the best players in the NBA, the Bucks star knows he will pick lessons up for himself along the way. Such was the case in Friday night’s 108-94 loss to Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors, as Durant got the best of the 23-year-old.
“When you guard players like Durant, you just got to make their game as tough as you can,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s going to get 20 shots up and he’s going to play his game. You just got to be out there and try to make it as tough as you can to guys like that. You can’t stop them. That’s one thing that I’ve learned. I gotta see it the same way. The defense gets tough. They’re just trying to make my job a lot harder. So, KD was aggressive all night. Moving forward, that’s a lesson for me to be aggressive all night too.”
Bucks coach Jason Kidd believes that Antetokounmpo is going through the same type of growing pains that Durant, 29, dealt with during his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder a few years ago. The Bucks made one of their best runs of the night during the third quarter after Antetokounmpo went to the bench with his fourth foul. Once he returned, Durant and rest of the Warriors loaded up on Antetokounmpo, forcing him into some tough shots.
“I think you look at all the young players in this league, look at Durant — he’s been in the league for some time now,” Kidd said. “He’s gone through the same thing of going against guys that might be a little bit better, that are up for the challenge of to slow him down. For Giannis, it’s just understanding that every night, no matter if we’re playing Golden State or another team in this league, they’re all going to get up to guard him and slow him down.
“I thought tonight he did a really good job of getting his teammates involved. We’re getting a lot of wide-open looks that aren’t going in right now. For Giannis, it’s continue to stay hungry, keep driving the ball and making plays for his teammates.”
The Bucks aren’t concerned about Antetokounmpo’s desire to get better. They know he will continue taking the necessary steps in his evolution as a superstar. But it’s nights like Friday that underscore the need for more time before he is considered at or near Durant’s level.
Veteran point guard Jason Terry of the Bucks offered this comparison between the two players prior to the game.
“Their size and their ability to handle the ball at 7 feet,” Terry said. “Athleticism, obviously. Durant just has that special characteristic that Giannis will have. That clutch gene, the ability to take over a game from anywhere on the floor. Giannis now dominates from the paint, we all know that. Once he develops the outside game, then you can start that comparison of a Kevin Durant.”