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Giannis Antetokounmpo reacts to Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard sitting out game vs. Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard

LOS ANGELES – Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in a tight contest Wednesday night, 129-124. Star forward Kawhi Leonard did not play in the game and watched from the sidelines, sitting out due to load management.

As Leonard sat, Antetokounmpo barreled through Leonard’s Clippers teammates en route to 38 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists, two steals, and two blocks on a decent 10-of-21 from the field and surprising 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.

A lot was made about Leonard sitting out the first half of a national TV back-to-back against the reigning MVP in order to play Thursday night against the Portland Trail Blazers. Complaints came in all over Twitter as ESPN’s top headlines throughout their morning and afternoon shows were about Leonard’s load management.

Antetokounmpo came into this battle ready and hyped to take on Leonard, but instead saw the team without him. Still, he says he understands and isn’t disappointed with it.

“Every organization has their own way that they operate,” Giannis Antetokounmpo explained. “Obviously, I was excited to play against one of the best players in the league. I think that gets you hyped, that gets the best out of you, but I wouldn’t say I was disappointed.

“If Kawhi is playing, you’re gonna have a tough night. You gotta guard him, you gotta score on him. I’m excited to see them in the future.”

Antetokounmpo and the Bucks took on Leonard and his then-Toronto Raptors in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals. It was a series the Bucks led 2-0 until the Raptors reeled off four straight victories to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in the franchise history.

The Bucks star tries to stay even-keeled no matter who his team is playing or what they’re going through, but a potential NBA Finals matchup against Kawhi didn’t derail his mindset.

“I’m motivated to play against anybody, but obviously when you play against Kawhi, one of the best players in the league, you’re gonna have a little bit extra juice in you. So as I said, I’m excited to play him in the future.”

The Clippers will host the Trail Blazers on Thursday night, and Leonard is expected to return from his one-game absence to that. The next time these two teams will face off will be on Dec. 6, when the Clippers head up to Milwaukee. By that time they’re expecting to have Paul George alongside Leonard.