NBA

Bucks 'slowly adjusting' as Giannis backs new coach Rivers after loss

By Sports Desk January 30, 2024

Giannis Antetokounmpo has full faith in new Milwaukee Bucks coach Doc Rivers despite his opening defeat to the Denver Nuggets on Monday.

Rivers made his Bucks bow on the sideline in Denver after replacing first-year coach Adrian Griffin, but Milwaukee were beaten 113-107 by another of the NBA's best teams.

An NBA champion as coach of the Boston Celtics in 2008, Rivers is vastly experienced but is taking over a team in the middle of a season for the first time.

There will be an adjustment period, but that is something superstar Antetokounmpo is prepared for.

"He was great," the two-time MVP said of Rivers. "Everybody has to have patience. It's new – the way we play, the way we defend, it's going to take a while to get used to.

"We're slowly, slowly adjusting, changing a couple stuff. Coaching staff have got to have patience with the players; players have got to have patience with the coaching staff.

"But I feel like for the first game, it was good."

Indeed, for all the criticism of the Bucks' defense, Rivers felt the blame for the loss to the Nuggets lay with an offense led by Antetokounmpo and offseason signing Damian Lillard.

"I told our guys: anyone who told you that you couldn't play defense lied," Rivers said afterwards. "You proved that tonight. You competed tonight. Our half-court defense was excellent.

"I think tonight was an offensive loss. I didn't think we were crisp offensively.

"Dame and Giannis have played 40 games together in their life, Joker [Nikola Jokic] and [Jamal] Murray have played... you know?

"And if you looked at the game tonight, they had it going, our guys couldn't get it going, and that was the difference."

If not for Rivers' return to the coaching arena, the focus in this game would have been on a battle between Antetokounmpo and Jokic that the Nuggets center edged, finishing with a triple-double of 25 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists.

"That's why I play, to play these kinds of games, to play under the pressure, to play tight games," Jokic said. "I like to play under those circumstances."

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