Giannis and 'grumpy' Bucks stifled by 'just outstanding' Nuggets defense
The Milwaukee Bucks were "grumpy" in Saturday's loss to the Denver Nuggets, but Michael Malone lauded his players for their work in frustrating Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co.
A battle between the top seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences ended in a big 129-106 win for the Nuggets in Denver.
It was the second night of a back-to-back for the Bucks, having scored 144 in beating the Utah Jazz on Friday.
Although Antetokounmpo insisted he did not want to make excuses for the defeat, he acknowledged "legs were heavy" and "shots were short".
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer added: "It was a night where we were grumpy. It happens.
"I've got to give credit to Denver. They played well, we weren't our best.
"You always want some things to be a little bit different, but it didn't happen. We'll take it and get ready for the next game."
Antetokounmpo still scored 31 points, but 24 came in the first half. His shooting went cold in the second half, as did Milwaukee's from three-point range, making three of 17 from deep across the third and fourth quarters.
Nuggets coach Malone felt his team – and two players in particular – deserved credit for that turnaround.
"You can't guard Giannis one-on-one, nobody can. He's a great player," Malone said.
"But I felt that Aaron Gordon did everything he could to stifle him – especially in that second half. Giannis was two-for-eight, seven points in the second half.
"Aaron took the challenge head on, but I felt the four guys around Aaron gave the necessary and appropriate help.
"Take Aaron out to start the fourth quarter, I felt Jeff Green picked up right where Aaron left off. Had some great possessions, you have to be into him [Giannis], you have to be physical, and when he drives and spins, you want to be there to clamp down on that drive.
"When we out-rebound our opponent, we win; when we value the ball, we usually win; it's a hell of a performance.
"The three-point line I was worried about most – they were nine-of-36, 25 per cent. So, I thought the defense overall was just outstanding."