Thanasis Antetokounmpo on Giannis dropping 41 on Ukraine: 'I didn't even notice'

Giorgos Kyriakidis
2022-09-07 10:43

Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Ioannis Papapetrou shared with BasketNews their thoughts about Giannis Antetokounmpo's 41-point game against Ukraine, and Greece's biggest off-court advantage.

Credit: FIBA

Thanasis Antetokounmpo witnessed the better part of Greece's game against Ukraine (99-79) from his team's bench.

The 30-year-old forward only played five minutes, collecting two points, as many rebounds, and one assist. But because he didn't play much, don't expect him to shirk his media obligations.

Thanasis stayed in the Mediolanum Forum mixed zone for as long as it took, answering every question with his gregarious, easy-going attitude that has become his trademark on and off the court.

Player of the Game
Giannis  Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo
Points 41
Accuracy 13-18
Rebounds 9
Assists 2

As Greece geared up in the second half to get their fourth win in EuroBasket Group C and clinch a spot in the knockout stage in Berlin, Thanasis Antetokounmpo and his teammates feasted on Giannis Antetokounmpo's scoring show. The Bucks superstar put up 41 points on 13/18 from the field and 15/18 free-throw shooting, adding 9 rebounds for a PIR of 43.

It was one of the greatest individual performances in EuroBasket history and the highest scoring tally since Dirk Nowitzki's 43 against Spain in 2001. What's even more impressive is that Giannis only needed 27'27'' to reach 41 points, which means that he was scoring 1.5 points per minute.

These numbers might look insane, but Thanasis Antetokounmpo didn't look impressed or amazed when BasketNews brought them to his attention.

"How many did he score? 41?" Giannis' brother asked. "I didn't even notice," he added.

"It's normal for him to say that. Thanasis has seen Giannis from up close drop 50 and 60," forward Ioannis Papapetrou explained. "I don't know if this performance is surprising,"  Partizan Belgrade's new addition said.

Papapetrou, who is gradually recovering from an injury that kept him sidelined for two weeks while still playing, thinks that "Giannis has an incredible way of playing, he is a freak of nature and basketball. Those things he does are unthinkable."

This is Giannis' only second EuroBasket with Greece, the first one since 2015. In the postgame presser, the 'Greek Freak' said that he tries "to create art; every game is a new experience for me."

"But I'll say this is one of the years that I feel very excited to go out on the court and play with my teammates. I don't know if that's because I hadn't played for a long time, since 2019, or because of the way coach Itoudis motivates me. I'm excited to step out on the court every time," Giannis pointed out. 

"We are very happy that he is with us and leading this team," Papapetrou commented in the mixed zone.

"It was an incredible show, especially when you see it up close. I think he will continue the same way."

But Giannis is also the third Greek player ever to have scored more than 40 points in a EuroBasket game, after Giorgos Kolokithas in 1967 and Nikos Galis, who did it five times, most notably in the 1989 EuroBasket semi-final (45) vs. the Soviet Union.

For Greece to come to the point of racking up four wins in four games, it took one quarter, 13 straight points off Giannis' hands, and one inspirational locker room speech by Dimitris Itoudis. To the media's disappointment, neither the Greek coach nor Giannis were eager to share what was said at half-time, but Papapetrou gave a broad description. 

"I don't think we consciously underestimated Ukraine, but I feel like we weren't doing the best we could in the first half. At half-time, we understood that we should have played harder. That's what happened and I'm happy about it."

Thanasis Antetokounmpo called the contest "a bit strange," before explaining why and how Ukraine took a seven-point lead (46-39) going into the second part. 

"Ukraine had some tall lineups. They got hot in the second quarter and began to make shots. We were trying to catch up by preventing some things from happening, but we also got nervous and took some hasty shots," the Bucks forward stressed.

"They might be the team with the biggest bodies in the EuroBasket. It was not a problem, but we had to adjust because we had learned to play with smaller lineups."

Credit Greek BF

Fielding a lineup with no center on the court has been a necessity for Itoudis and Greece, since Giorgos Papagiannis and Kostas Antetokounmpo had been unable to help the team for a long time. Now, the former Kings big man is back, and Antetokounmpo, who made his EuroLeague debut with ASVEL Villeurbanne last season, is set to return very soon. 

Apart from racking up four in a row, something that Greece had done in the past but didn't translate to a memorable tournament, what makes Thanasis optimistic about the current version of Greece is the camaraderie and companionship that its members share.

"I'm happy to be playing on this team," he said.

"Its main difference from other teams we've had is that all the guys are more or less the same age, and we've become familiar with each other. We are friends and we have a special chemistry."

"Physically maybe not, but spiritually we're on the same page," Ioannis Papapetrou maintains.

"We fight for each other, showing some positive energy, and we support each other. We have great chemistry off the court, we hang around with each other. That can help us give our best when the crucial games come."

Credit HBF

Still, Papapetrou knows that a perfect record doesn't give any guarantees ahead of the knockouts.

"We've had four wins and I think we're on the right track. That might not mean anything," he underlined.

After all, Greece are through to the next round, having played four games in five days. Giannis Antetokounmpo was rested in the outing vs. Great Britain, but the same doesn't apply to the other ten players at Itoudis' disposal. 

"We played 5 games in 7 days, which is not the case even in the NBA," Thanasis remarked.

"But the most important thing is that we are all here and fight our hearts out."

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