Bad news: We won't be seeing Giannis Antetokounmpo leading Greece to EuroBasket glory this weekend. Good news: We'll get to see Giannis in a Bucks jersey really, really soon.
Antetokounmpo's 12 points and 17 rebounds weren't enough for the Greeks against Spain on Tuesday, as Pau Gasol's 27 points and 9 boards paced the Spanish to a narrow 73-71 win and a spot in the EuroBasket semifinals. Greece had been perfect through its first six games and led by two heading into the fourth, but struggled early in the final quarter and couldn't complete a late comeback. As for Giannis, he recorded his third straight double-double while connecting on 2/4 threes -- his third straight game hitting at least two from distance (and in case we're counting, his last miss was a last-second heave from midcourt). He added a pair of blocks while hauling in eight offensive rebounds in 34 minutes, though he also turned it over four times.
The loss derails Greece's hopes of automatic qualification for next year's Olympics, though a win against Latvia on
Wednesday Thursday morning at 9 am CT (ESPN3.com / WatchESPN) would guarantee them a spot in next year's FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The top two teams from this year's EuroBasket will gain automatic qualification to the Rio 2016 games, while the next five teams will be among the 18 teams gunning for the final three spots in Rio next July (insert concerns over Giannis playing too much basketball here).
From a Bucks perspective, I'm not sure we learned too much about Giannis other than seeing his improved perimeter mechanics in game action for the first time. His modest averages of 9.0 ppg (58.6% twos, 38.1% threes, 50.0% overall) and 6.9 rpg were indicative of Giannis rarely featuring in Greece's primary offensive actions, leaving him to rely mostly on cuts, spot-ups and transition opportunities for his points. He could have been more assertive looking for post position against smaller defenders, but overall it was obvious that he's still the kid on a veteran Greek team. Maybe he could have done more, and the Greeks probably should have done a better job of utilizing his physical tools on the offensive end. But international ball is a different animal and it was at least encouraging to see him play his best ball over the last three games (11 ppg, 12.7 rpg). Either way, life goes on.
Still, we can and should hope that his improved confidence and efficiency from the perimeter over the past month carry over to a Bucks uniform. After starting 0/3 from deep in the first two games, Giannis finished the tournament at a rather solid 38.1% (8/21) from deep including 44% over the last five games. He shot the ball similarly well during Greece's exhibition games in August, which was especially encouraging given the slight mechanical tweaks he worked on earlier in the summer with Josh Oppenheimer and the Bucks coaching staff. We'll have to wait a few more weeks before we start to see how that translates to the longer NBA line -- did we mention training camp is less than two weeks away (!?!) -- but it's a good start.