A blown lead, a game saver, and a DQ: Inside Giannis' dizzying home opener

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo sat in a daze, with his size-16 right foot planted in a big, blue ice bucket at his locker, as his older brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo rolled his chair to the right side of him to console him in their native language following the Milwaukee Bucks‘ home-opening loss on Saturday.

It was a tough pill to swallow. Giannis Antetokounmpo became the first reigning MVP to ever foul out of his first game Thursday night at Houston. But that was in a win. He repeated the disqualification act for a second consecutive game Saturday, in addition to the Bucks blowing a 21-point, second-half edge. The Miami Heat, who were playing without veterans Jimmy Butler, Dion Waiters and James Johnson, escaped Fiserv Forum with a 131-126 overtime victory.

“It’s not frustrating. First game we won,” Antetokounmpo said of the consecutive foul outs. “I think the frustrating part is not being out there to help my team, not necessarily I don’t know if we would’ve won the game but just being out there and try to help your team to maybe block a shot, rebound or maybe make a pass or something.

“That’s the frustrating part about it,” he continued. “Obviously, I’ve got to keep learning from it and get better.”

Milwaukee’s 14 made 3-pointers at halftime tied for the most in any half of franchise history. But the momentum shifted in the second half, particularly in the third quarter, as the Bucks went 3-for-24 the rest of the way from beyond the arc — including 0-for-4 in overtime — to shoot 31.5%.

Antetokounmpo finished with a near triple-double (29 points, 17 boards and 9 assists), including a buzzer-beating tip-in to end regulation knotted at 121-121 off Khris Middleton‘s missed jumper. The Bucks even being in position for Antetokounmpo to save the game was precarious, as the Heat led 117-108 with 3 minutes, 33 seconds left, and 120-116 with 9.3 seconds left.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo’s tap-in at the buzzer sends the Bucks to overtime, but they still fall short to the Heat despite Giannis’ 29 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists.

But Antetokounmpo fouled out at 2:31 left in overtime, followed by George Hill who also fouled out with 2 minutes to play.

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer called it a “tough sixth foul on Giannis,” but Middleton made no excuses with the team having committed 32 personal fouls on the night. The Bucks collected 27 fouls during their 117-111 victory Thursday over the Rockets.

“It’s been terrible. We’ve got to do a better job of playing without fouling and that’s everybody,” said Middleton, who posted 25 points with five fouls of his own. “Arguably they’re bad calls, but most of them were not, if not all of them were not. We’ve got to do a better job of adjusting to the whistle and seeing how they’re calling the game.”

Miami’s Kendrick Nunn (18 points, 8-of-17 field goals) and Kelly Olynyk (14 points, 4-of-9 3s) also fouled out of the game as Miami committed 30 personal fouls. The Heat entered the game as 11-point underdogs before pulling off their largest road upset since Dec. 10, 2007, when they knocked off the Phoenix Suns as 11.5-point underdogs, per ESPN Stats & Information research.

From 10:58 in the third until the end of overtime, Miami shot 49% as a team, with Goran Dragic delivering 15 of his team-high 25 points during that stretch. Bam Adebayo also hit 9 of 12 free throws during that time to finish with 19 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists. Adebayo also essentially sealed the game by erasing an Eric Bledsoe layup with 13.7 seconds left in overtime as Miami nursed a 129-126 lead.

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Eric Bledsoe attempts to throw down a dunk in transition, but Bam Adebayo hustles back on defense to pin the shot off the backboard late in overtime.

Rookie Heat guard Tyler Herro dropped 14 points with five rebounds as a starter in his return to his hometown.

“There’s definitely a lot of toughness in this locker room and a lot of grit,” Herro said. “We really just got heart, we don’t like to lose and we definitely didn’t want to get embarrassed.”

On the flip side, Milwaukee endured its largest blown lead at home since leading by 26 against the Knicks on March 14, 2004. In fact, in the past 20 seasons when leading by 20 or more at home, Milwaukee was 142-3 entering the contest.

Former Bucks star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was also in the building to soak in the action, sporting team gear. He said he sees this season as an opportunity for the squad to “put all the pieces together this year and do a little bit better.” Abdul-Jabbar spent the first six seasons of his Hall of Fame career in Milwaukee before being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975.

“Yeah, I think Milwaukee should be disappointed about what happened last year, they kind of lost their focus late and got shook,” Abdul-Jabbar told ESPN of the Bucks falling in the East finals as the conference’s top seed. “So, no one’s going to sneak up on them this year, so I’m sure they’ll be focused and ready for whatever happens.”

Outside of the numbers and statistical meltdown, the latest loss was enough to agitate anyone, much less the reigning MVP. At the end of the night, as he strolled out the locker room at Fiserv Forum, Giannis was thankful to be joined by Thanasis. And it’s not as though Giannis hasn’t dominated. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, he’s the first player in NBA history with 30 rebounds and 20 assists in his team’s first two games of the season.

“Yeah, it’s cool,” Giannis said of being accompanied by his older sibling. “For me, as I see it, I’ve just got to get better. Keep shooting the ball, getting to my spot with confidence and keep making the right play.”

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