Even star Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t envision the Bucks being in a position to win the Eastern Conference this easily.
The forward admitted that the East is wide open now that LeBron James is out of the conference.
James’ move to sign with the Lakers during the offseason in free agency undoubtedly changed the landscape of the East. James had dominated the East for nearly a decade while playing for the Cavaliers and Heat. He led his team’s to the NBA Finals for eight consecutive seasons, but missed the playoffs for the first time in 13 years when he joined Los Angeles.
Antetokounmpo, however, wasn’t expecting such a shift right away.
“I didn’t see it as open,” Antetokounmpo said Thursday (per ESPN). “But now that I look back and see how everything went, it’s definitely open, not having LeBron in the East and not trying to go through him.”
The Bucks swept the Pistons in the first round of the playoffs and then went on to defeat the Celtics with a 4-1 series win in the conference semifinals before opening up the conference finals with a win over the Raptors.
“Any time you don’t have to go through LeBron James is going to help your odds,” Bucks guard Pat Connaughton said.
Antetokounmpo has played a big role in the Bucks’ successful playoff run, averaging 27.1 points while shooting 51.4% from the field. He’s added 11.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists throughout the 10 postseason games.
— NBA (@NBA) May 13, 2019
While Antetokounmpo is happy with how the Bucks are playing, he wants to keep his focus on the next couple of games.
“We’re happy,” Antetokounmpo said. “But at the end of the day, our job is not done. We gotta protect our home; we gotta be able to get Game 2.”
Game 2 of the conference finals will tip off Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET (TNT) as the Bucks hold a 1-0 series lead over the Raptors.