The Bucks watched and waited as Kawhi’s shot bounced Sixers
Malcolm Brogdon was at a sports bar with teammates when they found out their East finals opponent
Malcolm Brogdon and three Milwaukee Bucks teammates — Donte DiVincenzo, Tim Frazier and Bonzie Colson — watched intently at The Mecca Sports Bar and Grill in Milwaukee as Toronto Raptor Kawhi Leonard’s game-winning shot attempt playfully bounced on the rim. After what seemed like minutes to Brogdon, the Bucks learned they would be playing the Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals, as Leonard’s buzzer-beater dropped through the net in the deciding Game 7 that eliminated the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Bucks will face the Raptors in Game 1 on Wednesday in Milwaukee.
“I was at this little sports bar with three of my teammates when the ball was in the air. It felt like we were waiting for five or six minutes,” Brogdon told The Undefeated on Sunday night.
“Watching the game, honestly, I think both of the teams are very talented. I just think Toronto is a little more disciplined. I think they had the best player on the floor.”
With all due respect to Leonard and the Raptors, Brogdon believes the Bucks will have the best player on the floor when the teams meet next round.
“It’s going to be a great matchup. Of course, I am going to go with my guy Giannis,” Brogdon said. “I think he is the MVP this year. But he has a great player on his hands. An MVP needs to win. And Giannis showed this year that he cannot only average the points but play both sides at the highest level and win more than any other player in the NBA.
“Every season he seems to get better even when you think he can’t. He’s shooting the 3-ball a lot better. … His leadership is the main thing that continues to get better. Of course, he is going to work hard. He is going to average damn near 30 points a game. But his leadership and being vocal every day has gotten better.”
Antetokounmpo has averaged 27.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists in nine playoff games this year. In three games against the Raptors during the regular season, the MVP candidate averaged 27 points, 15.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Forward Pascal Siakam and guard Danny Green were the only Raptors to hold Antetokounmpo to under 50% shooting in the regular season, while he made all three shots, he took the few times he was guarded by Leonard. Leonard averaged 22 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4 assists in three games against Milwaukee this season.
Brogdon, meanwhile, played a key role in helping the Bucks earn the NBA’s best record this season by averaging 15.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists as a starter in 64 games. He also shot 42.6 percent from 3-point range. But the 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year was sidelined for nearly two months after suffering a plantar fascia tear in his right foot on March 17. Brogdon returned on May 8 and scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting in 16 minutes off the bench in the series-clinching victory over the Boston Celtics.
While Brogdon could remain a reserve in favor of Nikola Mirotic when the East finals begin, he is finally healthy.
“I’d say that I am at 100 percent right now,” Brogdon said.
The Bucks have been off since May 8 after eliminating Boston and are easily the most well-rested team left in the postseason.
If it were up to Brogdon, however, he would have preferred a shorter layoff for the Bucks.
“For most guys, they want to stay in rhythm,” Brogdon said. “That is how I think most pros are. We want a little rest. Maybe two or three days. But once you get to the four- or five-day mark, you feel like it can affect you. You can come out sluggish. We had that sluggish effect after we came out after the Detroit series against Boston. But for me, I’m so geared up. I’m so ready to play.
“I was enjoying playing in the last game against the Celtics. I wish we could’ve played sooner. But you have to deal with the hand you’re dealt.”
The Bucks won the season series 3-1 against Toronto. Brogdon sees a lot of similarities between the two teams.
“They’re a very good team,” Brogdon said. “They have a top-five player in the NBA on their team. They’re a disciplined team that can hurt you inside and out. Adding Marc Gasol [at center] has really helped them spread the floor and keep the lanes spread. Honestly, they’re very similar to us.
“But we have a very well-rounded team that can hurt you in many ways from Brook [Lopez] inside to Brook outside to having all the guys that can shoot at such a high level. But our chemistry is clicking so well right now and it makes us really tough to beat because we play so well together.”
The Bucks have not won an NBA title since 1971 and have not been to the Finals since 1974. If the Bucks do finally make it back to the Finals for the first time in 45 years, Brogdon believes it will be a dream come true.
“Man, I think it would be dream, especially for guys like Giannis and Khris [Middleton] who have been for a long time and have seen the bottom of this organization years ago. The work they put in along with the newer guys like myself and Eric Bledsoe and guys like that have been helping. It would be a lot and a great statement for small market teams in the NBA. They deserve to have talent as well and attention. They can win championships as well.”