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May 14, 2019

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Practice Day

Q. As two teams that have lost the opening game of a series, how important is it for you guys to set the tone here in front of the fans and send a message?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: We just want to be better. I think going into the series with Boston, the first game, we were tired. We didn't play the best basketball we could play. I think everybody is aware of that. Hopefully tomorrow we can just go out there and just play the best basketball we can play. Just be ourselves and try to get a win.

Q. What have you done to try to do that?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: When you think about it and you know how the series started and the way we felt after Game 1 against Boston, you just try to not have the feeling again. Try to avoid that almost like embarrassment that we had after Game 1, because we weren't ourselves. I think, as I said, everybody is aware of what happened, the way the team was feeling. Against Boston, you can go down 1-0 and you'll still be fine. But against Toronto, it's hard to be in that spot, to lose the first game in your home.

I think, as I said, guys are aware of that. Last night, Khris [Middleton] was here, [Eric] Bledsoe was here, George Hill was here, I was here shooting, and nobody talked to one another. Everybody showed up because everybody knows how -- I'm not going to say high stakes, but how important it is to set the tone in Game 1. That's really good. That's what a special team does. That's what a great team does. Hopefully we can leave Game 1 with a win.

Q. How long has this break felt? How antsy are you to get back on the court?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Yeah, I'm excited to get back on the court. I'm excited to play basketball again. I'm happy that we play every other day. We've been off, what, for like seven, eight days now. Yeah, I took a mini vacation; I went back to Greece for a few days. Yeah, saw my brother, came back [laughter]. But no, we're excited to play basketball. Excited to play basketball.

Q. Can I ask you about a side story that I heard? Everybody knows you love to train. You come out for late-night training, so they told me that the facility has to buy you a new microwave so you can heat your food when you are training late nights.

Q. I have a source.
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: No. No, no, no. It's not true. The microwave is not for me. But actually we have a microwave in the locker room. I know who put it there.

Q. Because of you?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Maybe. But no, I try to go back home and eat my food. But yeah, if I ever have some food here, I would definitely use the microwave in the locker room.

Q. With so much at stake, do you look forward to the challenge of trying to stop someone like Kawhi Leonard, one of the best players in the game, and how do you stop somebody like that?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Man, stopping Kawhi is going to be hard. It's not going to be easy. He's one of the best players in the league. He's playing with a lot of confidence right now. He's been super aggressive, and his teammates want him to be aggressive. What we can do with Kawhi is you've got to limit his touches as much as possible. Try to deny him. Try to make it as hard as possible for him. Just make other guys make plays and try to take Kawhi as much as we can away from the game. But at the end of the day, he's going to get the ball. He's going to shoot his shots. So we've just got to make it as tough as we can for him. We know he's going to hit some shots. We know he's going to come out, shoot 25, 30 shots, 39 shots. And he's going to make plays. But at the end of the day, our main focus is Kawhi and we're going to try to have other guys make plays.

Q. What did you think about the shot he hit?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: It was amazing. Previously, I was talking to my family who was watching the game. I told them that Toronto has some soft rims. When you shoot the ball, it tends to bounce around the rim and it goes in sometimes. So you always have a chance if you shoot the ball with an arc. I was saying that, and in the fourth quarter he hit the shot. He basically touched every part of the rim, went in. But it was a big shot. He got to his spot. Yeah, it was a big shot for the organization, and it was a big shot for him, too.

Q. When you saw that shot, did you think was it going in?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: No, I'm not going to lie. I thought it was going to go into overtime. But he hit a big shot, so it was good for him and for his team.

Q. During the regular season Khris was the guy who defended Kawhi a lot. Do you know what he did, and how much can that help getting ready for a series like this?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: I think he did a great job in the four games that we played in the regular season. But at the end of the day, it's just not going to be Khris. We've got to be active behind him. He's going to be the first line of defense, but me and Brook [Lopez], Ersan [Ilyasova], Niko [Nikola Mirotic], we've got to be active behind him and try to help him as much as possible. I think Khris has done a great job just making it tough for Kawhi, denying him, sometimes going over, sometimes going under. Just making Kawhi guess. That's all we can do.

Q. Early in your career you guys were one of the lower teams in the league in three-point attempts. Have you felt the space, and do you think that's been a big part of the reason why you're at where you're at this year?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Yeah, it's definitely a big part of it. I think my teammates have done a great job getting to their spots, spacing the floor, running to the corner and knocking down shots. I think me and Bledsoe and Khris have done a good job finding the open guy as a team. So yeah, the game plan that Coach Bud [Mike Budenholzer] brought to the team has definitely helped everybody be great.

That's one of the things that he told me the first time we met. He told me, You can be good. We know that. But how can we make your teammates be effective? He's done a great job making guys effective, having them have open shots, putting them in the right spots to be successful. He's definitely given me a lot of space to make my plays and Bledsoe also with his.

Q. Talk about going into the series with the bench that you have, with George Hill leading the way.
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: It's nice. It's nice to know that guys that come off the bench are going to be ready to go out there and compete as hard as they can. They've been playing great. They've been averaging 35-plus points from the bench, so that's -- I think, I'm not sure. I'm just saying they've done a great job. I think George Hill, Pat [Connaughton], everybody that comes off the bench has done an unbelievable job. We've got to keep it up.

Q. You had mentioned that last night it was very businesslike in here with how you guys were approaching getting ready. But watching your practice today, you guys seemed very loose. Where do you walk that line of being businesslike, being focused, but also having fun, because I feel like that's what's made you guys special this whole season?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: We try as a team to do what we've done since day one. We try to have a great atmosphere, and when things get serious, you've got to lock in. But at the end of the day, we cannot just not have fun. It's nice to be here, and you've got to be in the moment and embrace being there. As serious as it can get, sometimes you've got to be loose. I think we found a great line as a team that we know when we've got to lock in. We know when we've got to be a little bit looser and try to have fun. I think we have it. Tomorrow if you come here, we're going to be more locked in and more focused for the game.

Q. It feels like such a long time since you guys played Toronto. How much do you take from that considering that there's a lot of new players on your team since you last played?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Obviously, we've got new players on the team. Niko. And they've got Marc [Gasol], who brings a lot to the table defensively with his defensive IQ. We're two different teams, two totally different teams right now. We've just got to lock in. They're going to be ready to play hard. We're going to have to be ready to play hard, too. It's going to be exciting to see what Niko is going to bring to the table for us against them. That's pretty much it.

Q. Do you expect them to match up [Serge] Ibaka with you most of the time, and what challenges does their length provide?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: I don't know. I know I'm going to see a lot of guys. Might be [Pascal] Siakam. Then it might be Ibaka. Might be Marc Gasol. He's a smart defensive player. Might be Kawhi. But at the end of the day, I've just got to keep making plays. It's something I've seen all season long, and I'm definitely ready for it.

Q. Malcolm said you're quite close with Masai [Ujiri]. So how do you balance that, someone you care about who's been there for you for your entire career, and then he's kind of on the other side in a lot of ways now?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: When I play basketball, it's all business. I'm not going to say I don't care about Masai because you guys will take it and twist it. I do care about Masai. Take that [laughter]. But at the end of the day, when you play basketball, I don't care. Obviously, I'm just here to help my team win and try to win the series. That's all I care about. I played against Thon [Maker] in the first round and I didn't say a word to him. He's someone I played with for two years, one of my best friends. When we were playing, I didn't say a word to him until the last game, and he didn't say a word to me back.

When I'm in between those lines, it's just business for me. I go out there, try to have a killer mindset, try to win. When I leave the floor as a winner, then we can talk about it. We can talk about whatever you want. We can talk about your hobbies or whatever you'd like to talk about.

Right now, I really don't care or think about how Masai helped me and my family during the years I've been in the league. But he's an unbelievable guy. Great GM. Built a great team. After the series is over, if he wants to go out and golf or do something, we can definitely do that.

Q. Malcolm said that he was a lot more confident and that he's feeling really good. Have you seen that confidence on the court?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Yeah, I can see the confidence. He talks a lot of crap right now, so he's confident. I love it. He's back being himself. He's definitely going to help the team in a lot of ways. It's great to have him back.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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