Milwaukee Bucks: USA wins comfortably as Greece continue to misuse Giannis Antetokounmpo

SHENZHEN, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 7: (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
SHENZHEN, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 7: (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images) /

In the big Milwaukee Bucks head-to-head of the day at the FIBA World Cup, Team USA enjoyed a comfortable victory as Greece’s use of Giannis Antetokounmpo remained puzzling.

Billed for months as a potential game of the tournament, and certainly one that Milwaukee Bucks fans had circled on their calendars, the USA and Greece finally faced off on Saturday at the FIBA World Cup in Shenzhen, China.

Unfortunately after all of that hype, the game proved to be a turgid affair and a real anti-climax as the Americans prevailed as 69-53 winners in a game that felt even more lopsided than that scoreline suggests.

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In large part, that came down to Greece’s exceptional struggles on the offensive end. Giannis Antetokounmpo stood as a notable, sole exception in that regard, but outside of the NBA MVP the Greek team managed to shoot an abysmal 14-of-55 (25.4 percent) from the field.

As a result, even with Team USA shooting just 36 percent from the field, they were able to hold on to a double-digit lead for the majority of the game.

Things didn’t look like they were going to be quite as straightforward for the Americans when Giannis came roaring out of the gates with seven early points. That barrage included an effortless and smooth pull-up triple from the top of the arc, as well as a swift dunk after outmuscling his Bucks teammate Khris Middleton in the paint.

Giannis continued to build on that throughout the game — when his coach and teammates afforded him the opportunity to do so. In the end, he finished with an impressive 15 points, 13 rebounds, two steals and 7-of-11 shooting from the field, but there’s no real reason why it shouldn’t have been even better than that.

After starting the first quarter with the ball in his hands, Greece gradually shifted back toward the approach that has left Antetokounmpo strangely marginalized at points in the tournament to date. Even when Antetokounmpo did have the ball, as immediate double and triple teams came his way from US defenders, solid passes came to nothing as his Greek teammates failed to knock down shots.

To put it simply, the fact that Antetokounmpo ended up with zero assists wasn’t for a lack of trying.

On the American side of the coin, Kemba Walker continued to drive the team forward, leading the scoring with 15 points on this occasion, while Donovan Mitchell also cracked double digits with 10 points of his own.

From a Bucks perspective, Middleton’s play was restricted at times by foul trouble as he racked up four personal fouls, but he ultimately logged just over 20 minutes of action in total. When he was on the floor, Middleton didn’t enjoy the best of shooting efforts as he went 1-of-8 from the field, finishing with four points, four rebounds, one steal and two turnovers.

Elsewhere in the rotation, Brook Lopez was left rooted to the bench to log a DNP as Mason Plumlee got the opportunity to soak up bench minutes at the 5 spot.

Rounding out the Bucks’ contributions, Thanasis Antetokounmpo also logged just under 14 minutes for Greece, scoring one point, grabbing two rebounds and dishing out two assists. He also played the majority of the fourth quarter as his brother bizarrely remained rooted to the bench for the final 10 minutes, even when Greece cut the lead down to 11 points.

For Thanasis, a hard foul on Harrison Barnes late on will likely prove to be the defining moment, though, as even after the final buzzer it resulted in heated conversations between both teams. Among those debates, Middleton was seen to push Giannis away from the action to ensure things didn’t escalate.

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With the win for the US, their place in the quarter-finals is officially secured. For Greece to join them in the last eight, they’ll need to beat the Czech Republic by 13 points or more on Monday and hope the Americans also beat Brazil.