"Some nights, the basketball gods are with you a little bit." That is how Mike Budenholzer described the Milwaukee Bucks' record-breaking 144-97 victory over the Miami Heat.

The Bucks set the NBA record for three-pointers made in a game with 29 as they gained some revenge against the Heat in Miami on Tuesday.

Milwaukee and Miami met for the first time since last season's playoffs, which saw the Heat surprisingly eliminate the Bucks in five games in the Eastern Conference semi-finals at Walt Disney World Resort.

But the Heat – without injured star Jimmy Butler – were no match for the Bucks, who were 29 of 51 from beyond the arc to surpass the record set by the Houston Rockets (27) in 2019.

Bucks head coach Budenholzer, whose team are eyeing their first championship since 1971, told reporters: "Some nights the basketball gods are with you a little bit, and it's probably one of those nights for us."

While it was a quiet outing for two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (nine points, six rebounds and six assists), his Bucks team-mates led the way.

Khris Middleton posted 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field, while he was four of five from three-point range in Milwaukee's largest road win in franchise history.

Jrue Holiday added 24 points, including six of 10 threes, Donte DiVincenzo (17 points) was five-of-six shooting from beyond the arc and Brook Lopez (14 points) contributed three of his own three-pointers.

"I knew we were shooting well," said Bucks center Lopez. "I didn't know we were anything close to that."

The Bucks were coming off a shock 130-110 rout at the hands of the New York Knicks.

But Milwaukee tied the record for the second-largest road win (47) in league history against a team that made the NBA Finals the previous season, behind the 1986 Seattle SuperSonics (56), per Stats Perform.

According to Stats Perform, the Bucks (2-2) also became the first team in NBA history to have two 35-plus point victories from their first four games of a season, having previously crushed the Golden State Warriors 138-99.

"Honestly, [we] just played hard," Holiday said. "We know the Heat way and how they're going to come out and play no matter who's playing.

"So we just wanted to take that approach."

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer is optimistic over Giannis Antetokounmpo's future following productive and fruitful communication during the offseason.

Antetokounmpo is out of contract at the end of the 2020-21 season, when he will be eligible for a supermax contract extension worth around $254million.

It remains to be seen whether the two-time reigning NBA MVP will stay in Milwaukee or depart for pastures new amid links to the likes of the Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks.

As the Bucks prepare for the start of the season, which tips off on December 22, Budenholzer told reporters: "The conversations with Giannis have been great this summer. He's incredibly supportive of us and everything we're trying to do to make this team the best it can be, and the same for us to support him.

"It's a big decision. I think the communication between he and I has been really good, really productive, fruitful.

"Same with [general manager] Jon [Horst], so we feel really good about the communication with Giannis throughout the summer and offseason."

Antetokounmpo averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during the regular season to become the first player to receive MVP honours in successive seasons since Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry in 2015 and 2016.

The 25-year-old led the Bucks with 30.4 minutes per game during the regular season. In NBA history, there has only been one team to win the NBA title without having a player average at least 32 minutes per game in the regular season: the 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs.

Bucks team-mate Khris Middleton added: "I have a lot of respect for Giannis. In my situation last year, he told me how he felt, and that's all I can do in return.

"I think we're more than friends at this point. We've spent eight years together. We've been through a lot together also, so, at the end of the day, I want him to do what's best for him and his family.

"He knows that I deeply want him to return and sign this extension, but at the same time, I know he's got a big decision that he's got to work through himself and with his family at home because those are the most important people.

"Whatever he does, he knows that I'll support him to the fullest, so I've talked to him. I give him my two cents and my opinion or try to convince him, but at the end of the day, I'm going to always love him and appreciate whatever he has to do."

The Bucks – eyeing a first championship since 1971 – suffered disappointment in the playoffs last season, going out in a 4-1 Eastern Conference semi-finals series loss to the Heat.

Milwaukee owned a league-best 56-17 record, but their form faded dramatically following the restart at Walt Disney World Resort amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bucks became the first team in NBA history to have more losses (4-9) in their final 13 regular-season games than they did in the entire campaign prior to that (52-8).

"We always embraced and feel fortunate that we feel we have the roster, we feel like we have players that are incredibly talented on both ends of the court and we're in the mix to be the last team standing," said Budenholzer, whose team will begin their season against the Boston Celtics on December 23.

"But, there's a process that every team's got to go through to get there. I think the goal is real, the opportunity is real, but I think that if you're an organisation or a team that doesn't embrace that, you're probably maybe in the wrong business, but at the same time, to think that a season is championship-or-bust is certainly not the way we've approached it.

"We really embrace competition, we embrace the playoffs, we embrace the opportunity and we want to be that last team standing, but that phrase is just something that doesn't resonate with me or, I think, our group or organisationally."

Giannis Antetokounmpo wanted to play in Game 5 against the Miami Heat, but Mike Budenholzer said there was no way the Milwaukee Bucks were going to risk their star.

Without Antetokounmpo (ankle), the Bucks bowed out of the NBA playoffs in the Eastern Conference semi-finals after a 103-94 loss to the Heat sealed a 4-1 series defeat on Tuesday.

The reigning NBA MVP was ruled out just before the game, but Bucks head coach Budenholzer said Antetokounmpo wanted to play.

"Giannis always wants to play, he's never going to pull himself and there was a plan today," he told a news conference.

"We had to look and put our heads together and listen to Giannis, but listen to our sports performance group led by Troy Flanagan and ultimately Jon Horst is our GM and myself and we couldn't let Giannis go out there. He's not ready, he's not healthy [and] we can't put him at risk.

"Giannis would always play, he wants to be there for his team-mates so really, really hard for Giannis, but I think it was pretty clear from everybody's, probably except for his, perspective what needed to happen."

The playoff exit was a disappointing finish to the campaign for the Bucks, who finished the regular season with the best record at 56-17.

Milwaukee also led the protests that saw the playoffs postponed last month as they called for justice for Jacob Blake, who was shot by police in Wisconsin.

Budenholzer was emotional when speaking about his players, saying: "I think what the team stands for and I think the character, the humanity to stand and be on the right side of history like we did led by George [Hill] and Sterling [Brown] and that was emotional and it's such a great group.

"Winning is important, we had high expectations starting the season, throughout the season, coming here, you always want to realise those expectations. But the relationships, the character, what this group did, I think it would be great if you could have both, but I think if you're going to choose one, I'd like to be with guys who had character and stand for something."

Mike Budenholzer was unsure if Giannis Antetokounmpo would be fit for Game 5 against the Miami Heat, but the Milwaukee Bucks head coach's heart stopped when the star hurt his ankle.

Antetokounmpo left Sunday's 118-115 overtime victory in the second quarter after re-injuring his ankle in the NBA playoffs.

The reigning MVP had posted 19 points in less than 12 minutes before Khris Middleton inspired the Bucks with 36 points as they stayed alive in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

But there is no guarantee Antetokounmpo will be back for Game 5 on Tuesday, with the Heat still leading 3-1 at Walt Disney World Resort.

"As far as for Game 5, they're evaluating him now," Bucks Budenholzer told a news conference.

"He'll get treatment through the night and we'll just see how he does over the next 24-48 hours and no, there was no consideration about him coming back today."

While it was Middleton who ended up keeping the top-seeded Bucks alive, Antetokounmpo was in fine form before his injury.

Budenholzer praised Antetokounmpo and said the injury was a scary moment for the Bucks.

"You feel for Giannis. I hope it's not lost what he did in those first 10 or 12 minutes on an ankle that is not fully 100 per cent," he said.

"He was phenomenal to start the game and gave us a huge boost. I think they threw a big punch early and Giannis was able to keep us afloat and when he went down, all our hearts just stopped for a second."

Heat star Jimmy Butler, who finished with 17 points, felt Miami fell away after Antetokounmpo's injury.

"We relaxed a little bit. We stopped playing basketball the right way. We stopped guarding. We stopped living by our defensive principles," he said.

"We weren't getting 50-50 balls, we were getting outrebounded, it was just all bad."

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Mike Budenholzer stressed the need to move on quickly after a contentious ending to the Milwaukee Bucks' defeat to the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

A breathless finish had seen Khris Middleton sink three free throws after Goran Dragic was judged to have stepped in his landing area to tie up a game in which 51 personal fouls were whistled for in Orlando.

But more drama followed when it was ruled Antetokounmpo fouled Jimmy Butler at the buzzer, with Bucks head coach Budenholzer having already used up his challenge.

Butler kept his nerve to sink the two free throws and seal a 116-114 win that sees the Heat move 2-0 in front, while it was just the third time in playoff history a game ended on free throws after time expired.

"I tried to make it tough for Jimmy," Antetokounmpo, who finished with a game-high 29 points, reflected on the decision. "The refs said there was contact there. Maybe there was, I've got to watch the play. 

"It is what it is. I tried to contest the shot, but they said there was contact there, so I've got to watch [the] play." 

The Bucks now face an uphill battle as the previous 11 teams to trail 2-0 in a best-of-seven series having recorded the best regular-season record went on to be eliminated, and Antetokounmpo issued a rallying cry to his team-mates.

"It's about us. It's always going to be about us. That's why we practice. That's why we go through our game plan. That's why we've got to come out and play harder," added Antetokounmpo, whose team also lost twice to the Heat in the regular season. 

"That's why we've got to make more shots. It's always going to be about us. It's not about what the other team is going to do. 

"It might be the Miami Heat now, next round might be a different team, next year might be a different team. It's always going to be about us.

"How can we get better? How can we not repeat the same mistakes? How can we not down the stretch make turnovers? How can we create easier shots?

"It's always going to be about us. It's never going to be about the other team that we're playing."

Budenholzer was not happy with the decisive call but followed a similar line to his star man.

"I would say we're disappointed with the judgment, with the decision, the timing," he said.

"It's a tough job. I have a lot of respect for the officials and the crew tonight. It's not an easy job, and of course we have our way of seeing things and we're going to disagree, but we need to shift our attention to Game 3 and get prepared for that. Understand that that's the most important thing right now."

Conversely, Butler had no doubt the right decision was made, saying: "It was an iso [isolated one-v-one], Goran [Dragic] made a hell of a pass on the inbound, then just wait for the clock to go out," Butler said. 

"A step-back jumper and I got fouled, [he] pushed me in the back. Can't deny that, and then I knew I had to make one out of two so I ended up, I think I made both of them and we win."

Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out the Milwaukee Bucks' 114-106 NBA loss to the Toronto Raptors after undergoing dental surgery.

Antetokounmpo was a notable absentee as the Eastern Conference's top seed fell to defending champions the Raptors in Orlando, Florida on Monday.

The reigning MVP had an oral operation, with the Bucks due to conclude their regular-season campaign against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday and the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday ahead of the playoffs.

"The league has protocols as far as dealing with dental and situations like this that Giannis and our sports performance group were able to follow and adhere to," said Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer.

"Very, very fortunate the league has thought through everything. He obviously needed some attention and was able to get it and he's going to be with us today and we'll see about playing and when that's going to happen."

Antetokounmpo has been averaging 29.8 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game for the Bucks this season.

The Bucks (55-16) are eyeing their first NBA championship since 1971.

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said Giannis Antetokounmpo deserves to win back-to-back NBA MVP awards.

The voting for the MVP and other individual regular-season awards are now reportedly over as the NBA season prepares to restart on July 30 after the league was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bucks star Antetokounmpo was crowned the league's Most Valuable Player last season, dethroning Houston Rockets guard James Harden.

Budenholzer believes Antetokounmpo should win consecutive honours as the NBA-leading Bucks (53-12) eye their first championship since 1971 via a 22-team bubble at Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida.

"I had no idea that that was the case, but it makes sense. I think it was 64, 65, 66 games for different teams so that's certainly a significant body of work and more importantly, certainly, Giannis in our minds has done more than enough to deserve a back-to-back MVP," Budenholzer said on Friday, when told none of the seeding games will be taken into consideration for awards.

"What he does for us on both ends of the court, what he does every night, the way he sets the bar for us, culture-wise, work ethic-wise, just as a team-mate.

"He's an incredible team-mate, plays unselfishly, does everything. And I think that's kind of what the MVP is so we certainly feel like he's very deserving and we'll be excited to support him."

Antetokounmpo was averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game when the NBA was suspended amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The Bucks will restart their campaign against Eastern Conference rivals the Boston Celtics on July 31.

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo believes the 2020 NBA title will be the "toughest championship you could ever win" due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2019-20 NBA season is set to return via a 22-team format at the Disney World complex in Orlando, Florida on July 30 after the campaign was halted due to COVID-19 in March.

Eastern Conference leaders Milwaukee boasted a league-best 53-12 record prior to the postponement, ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference.

As teams prepare to be based in an Orlando bubble, reigning MVP Antetokounmpo insisted this season's championship should not come with an asterisk.

"I feel like a lot of people say that there's gonna be a star next to this championship," Antetokounmpo said.

"I feel like, at the end of the day, this is gonna be the toughest championship you could ever win – because the circumstances are really, really tough right now. So whoever wants it more is going to be able to go out there and take it."

Antetokounmpo added: "Everybody has concerns about their health. Nobody wants to put themselves in risk out there, but at the end of the day, that's what the NBA chose, and we're gonna resume the games, and we've all gotta do our job.

"And my job is to play basketball and go out there and support my team-mates and represent the city. But for sure, I think me, my team-mates, my family – especially my mum – everybody has concerns about our health, and my health."

The Bucks will return to action against the Boston Celtics on July 31 as Milwaukee eye their first championship since 1971.

"I feel like the champion from this experience, from this season, I think is going to be more worthy and probably more special than any [other] champion," Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Antetokounmpo was averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game prior to the NBA's suspension.

"I want to be one of the best players to ever play the game," four-time All-Star Antetokounmpo said. "I did the best job I could do trying to stay ready and trying to have my team ready for this journey that we're about to go on to leave and play games.

"But as I said, whoever wants it more, whoever is mentally prepared for all this, what's going on in Orlando, that's the team that's gonna come out on top."

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss his second consecutive game due to back soreness.

The Bucks will be without reigning NBA MVP Antetokounmpo for Saturday's clash against the Orlando Magic, the team announced.

Antetokounmpo sat out Milwaukee's 112-86 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday because of his back problem.

"He did some work earlier today and he is making progress. I think he is very close," Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters pre-game on Saturday.

"Just not ready to go or not capable tonight. We'll hope that not playing tonight and another day without a game, he will return soon."

This season, Antetokounmpo is averaging 30.5 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game for the league-leading Bucks (28-5).

Giannis Antetokounmpo said he is not supposed to be up against LeBron James and Anthony Davis as the Milwaukee Bucks star remained grounded following Thursday's win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Bucks claimed the best record in the NBA after reigning MVP Antetokounmpo inspired a 111-104 victory in the blockbuster showdown.

All eyes were on Milwaukee for the highly anticipated clash as Eastern Conference leaders the Bucks and the Western Conference-leading Lakers shared 24-4 records.

Antetokounmpo upstaged James and Davis with his 34 points and 11 rebound, the Bucks moving top of the overall NBA standings.

"I think the most important thing is to try to stay humble. When you win MVP and you win 60 games, it's hard," Antetokounmpo said afterwards.

"You feel like, 'OK, what else?' But at the end of the day, I realise and my family realises that I'm not supposed to be here.

"I wasn't the number one pick. [Anthony Davis] was. LeBron [James] was. I wasn't supposed to be here.

"I'm not supposed to go against these two beasts, so I'm just happy that I'm here and happy that I'm going through the process, and I always want to be better, do better for my team, and that's what gives me joy."

Antetokounmpo also had a career-high five three-pointers against the Lakers, on eight attempts from beyond the arc.

"I'm going to keep shooting. It doesn't matter for me if I made one, two or five, I just want to be better," Antetokounmpo said. "And I want to keep getting better and keep working on my game, and it's going to be some nights that I'm going to make zero and it'll be nights I'll make five, but I've got to keep shooting because that's what my team wants me to do."

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer added: "I think a lot of players keep working, keep getting better, and it's part of our league, part of being a professional.

"But what Giannis does in the summer, the amount of time he puts in before practices, after practices, taking care of his body -- but I think everybody, as special as he was last year, I think even opponents and his peers, I think, see and know that he can get better. He's doing it. He's putting the time and effort in, and we just feel fortunate he's ours and excited about him and our future."

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