Perhaps the most stunning thing about Brazil’s 79-78 win over Greece in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, outside of its ending that featured a Bruno Caboclo block on a free throw, was that Giannis Antetokounmpo did not look like the reigning NBA MVP. Antetokoumpo scored 13 points on 3-for-7 shooting with four rebounds and an assist, and only attempted one shot in the game’s fourth quarter.
Greece is going to go as far as Antetokounmpo takes it, so there’s no surprise the team lost in a game where he was less than stellar. As it turns out, part of the reason for his off night stems from the fact that Brazil coach Aleksandar Petrovic claims he’s known exactly how to defend the Greek Freak for months.
Petrovic spoke to the media after the game and said that the Eastern Conference Finals matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors put forth a blueprint on how to stop Antetokounmpo.
“We showed that we have several players who can stop Antetokounmpo,” Petrovic said, per EuroHoops. “But yesterday I was more occupied with Sloukas and Printezis, and that’s what happened today. When I was preparing this game, a lot of people talked and joked about how to stop Antetokounmpo. I had for six months in my head, since the semifinals between Toronto and Milwaukee, how to stop Antetokounmpo. The problem tonight for us was Sloukas and Printezis.”
The other players referenced, Georgios Printezis and Kostas Sloukas, both had good nights — the former scored a team-high 20 points and the latter had nine points and 11 assists — but it ultimately was not enough because of Antetokounmpo’s struggles. Of course, Toronto did a great job slowing down Antetokounmpo during the postseason en route to winning a championship, but that was, in part, because they had perhaps the best defensive player in the world, Kawhi Leonard.
As for Brazil, they were able to throw a litany of defenders at Antetokounmpo, including one, 39-year-old Alex Garcia, who earned a special shout out from his coach.
“On the other side, you have a guy who won the MVP, he’s 23 years old and who stops him tonight?” Petrovic asked. “The guy who is 40 years old and kicks his ass on the court. That’s basketball.”