Orlando, August 23: Giannis Antetokounmpo said the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks have adopted the tag of "underdogs", despite claiming a series lead over the Orlando Magic in the NBA playoffs.
Antetokounmpo's double-double helped the Bucks defeat the Magic 121-107 in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first-round matchup in Orlando on Saturday (August 22).
The reigning MVP posted 35 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists as the Bucks earned a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series at Walt Disney World Resort, where Milwaukee were stunned in Game 1.
Milwaukee - eyeing their first championship since 1971 - are one of the favourites to win the title, but Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are playing with a different mindset.
Giannis dropped 35 points and shot 12-14 from the field. pic.twitter.com/Z8pUSE05u8— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) August 22, 2020
"We have high confidence about ourselves," Antetokounmpo said post-game. "We believe in ourselves, our team, our game plan and coach.
"But not the end of the day, we're not the champions… if you don't go out there and take it or if you don't play with a chip on your shoulder and play hard every second, it's not going to happen. That's life. There's no way to work around it.
"For me and for the team, we're gonna go out there and play hard. "We're not gonna play like the favourites, we're gonna play like the underdogs. From now on, that's how we're gonna be. If we make it till then, great. If we don't, that doesn't matter. We're gonna be ourselves."
"I think we're all hard on ourselves," Antetokounmpo told reporters. "But basketball isn't what you did in the past or what you're going to do in the future. It's about what you're doing right now.
"That's my whole mindset, my whole life. Right now, we played good. Hopefully we can carry this onto the next game. Play good defence, keep playing together and playing good basketball."
It was a physical battle between the Bucks and eighth seeds the Magic following a second-quarter scuffle involving Milwaukee's Marvin Williams and Orlando forward James Ennis.
Both players were ejected after exchanging shoves.
The Bucks, though, were not to be stopped after leading 70-43 at half-time and by as many as 34 points in the third period.
"I was just trying to play hard," said Antetokounmpo, who went 12 of 14 from the field in 31 minutes.
"Obviously it was an early game today, we played at 1 p.m., [when] usually we're not as focused, when the game starts, we're kind of a little bit lazy. I was trying to set the tone, play hard, guard my guy, take that individual challenge with my guy, trying to be active. I was just trying to be all over the place."
"We're not gonna play like the favorites, we're gonna play like the underdogs." pic.twitter.com/6VLUwIgDQ1— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) August 22, 2020
"There's going to be times that I'm not going to play well, and Khris [Middleton] is going to carry the team," Antetokounmpo continued. "There's going to be times when we're both not going to play well, and Brook and Bled are going to carry the team.
"Khris is really important to this team, obviously. I can say it. Coach can say it, the team. Everybody knows that."
Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer added: "All of us feed off of Giannis and his leadership and his energy and his competitiveness. I think when he's showing it and sharing it with all of us, toughing all of us, it's great. He's our leader. We needed it."
Game 4 between the Bucks and Magic is on Monday.