Bucks-Knicks matchup spawns some hard feelings
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Madison Square Garden, home to some of the great boxing matches in the history of the sport, will be home on Tuesday to one of the NBA's great Round Twos of the season as Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks head to New York for a Christmas Day showdown, a game that also doubles as a rematch of the Greek Freak-Mario Hezonja beef that began in a Dec. 1 game.
After Hezonja dunked on and then walked over Antetokounmpo in rather disrespectful fashion, Antetokounmpo said he'd deliver a bit of retribution the next time the teams saw each other, retribution in the form of a punch below the belt.
Who knows if the two will actually meet on Tuesday.
Hezonja didn't play a second in the Knicks' home loss to Atlanta on Friday.
"I think it's going to be competitive regardless," Knicks head coach David Fizdale told the media this week. "(Antetokounmpo) is a beast. He's a competitor and I know our guys are competitors. That's just good old basketball. Those guys are going to talk when they're out there on the court. That's just part of our game."
Before the Hawks game, Hezonja said he did not want to comment on Antetokounmpo's veiled threat, but said of the incident, "I wasn't even worried about it or who it was. I didn't see to be honest. It was just great to get the crowd going."
Antetokounmpo didn't back down from his comments this week, but did say he'd be more careful with his words going forward.
"What I said, I meant it," he said. "I'm a person that doesn't take words back. I wasn't mad after the game, it was more of a pride thing, but I know I gotta choose better words... Sometimes it's tough because I'm not from here. I'm from overseas, so it comes out as more harsh."
For Fizdale, it was just how the game goes.
"It's just basketball, man. Everybody grew up at the park," he said. "It's part of the deal. People are going to say what they're going to say, but it's just basketball. You are who you are -- they're scrappy kids. They're trying to fight their way into this league, trying to show people immediately that they belong, and sometimes that's how it comes out."
While the fans may be rewarded with some spirited fisticuffs, Fizdale said the return of rookie guard Allonzo Trier from a hamstring injury was "a nice little gift." Trier has missed seven games with the injury, so he's expected to be reintroduced slowly.
"He was good today," Fizdale said. "Seemed like he was OK. Obviously, I'm not going to play him much, kill him with minutes, because I don't want to push the hamstring. But he'll definitely get some burn."
Knicks guard Trey Burke also is expected to see some time in his return from a two-game break. Burke emerged from a six-game layoff with a knee injury to shoot just 3 for 16 in the following two games and was benched for two. Fizdale said he expected Burke to play on Tuesday, "especially if we struggle to score."
Updated December 25, 2018