Without Joel Embiid on the floor on Wednesday night, Philadelphia 76ers hybrid guard Ben Simmons had to take on the responsibility of guarding Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetonounmpo.
In the first half, Simmons did a job well done. In a little under 18 minutes of action, Antetokounmpo was held to just four-point as he made only one of his four field-goal attempts. Going into halftime, the Bucks trailed the Sixers 45-31.
The second half was a different story, though. Milwaukee woke up and gained some momentum. Meanwhile, the 76ers, who played in a late game against the New York Knicks just the night before, started to find themselves in a slump.
At a point, Giannis took advantage. He scored nine of Milwaukee's 34 points in the third quarter, then drained nine of the Bucks' 28 fourth-quarter points before the game went into overtime. By then, the Sixers were visibly exhausted, and the 'Greek Freak' was more energized than ever.
During the final five-minute period, the Bucks outscored the Sixers 16-12. Antetokounmpo went on a run and was responsible for 10 of his team's 16 overtime points. As the superstar big man heated up and forced the Sixers to call a timeout after an impressive bucket, he sat down on the court as his team surrounded him while celebrating his late-game success.
Sure, his actions were harmless, but the Sixers and their 3,000-plus fans viewed it as a form of taunting. Therefore, the Bucks were met with their loudest boos of the night. "I wanted to go and stone-cold stunner him," said Sixers center Dwight Howard.
"You know, it's basketball, and we want to have fun, but we'll see these guys again. We don't want to make a big scene about what he did. Today, we allowed them to get back in the game. So, what he did -- we can't control that."
The timing of Dwight Howard and Giannis Antetokounmpo's press conferences were perfectly aligned. Roughly 20 minutes after Howard offered up his two cents on the topic, Antetokounmpo was asked about it. As you would expect, he has no regrets.
"Is there something wrong with having fun?" Antetokounmpo said. "I don't think there's anything wrong with having fun. I just like to have fun. In the first half, I was not having fun. I kind of, you know, talked to myself at the half and said, 'No matter how bad the game is, you can't forget what you have to do, which is have fun.'"
Sounds like somebody familiar. Sixers center Joel Embiid is another player who has thrived off of "having fun," aka forms of taunting in the past. As he's mentioned many times before leading up to last season, he dominates when he's having fun, interacting with the crowd, and talking trash.
On Wednesday night, Giannis did his version of it, and he has no regrets. "Obviously, there's a couple of times where I exaggerate," Antetokounmpo continued. "But I don't want to take anything back. I wasn't thinking, 'Oh, I'm going to sit down.' I was having fun. I was talking to my teammates -- I was talking to them. I was just trying to be in the moment, but I was just having fun."