LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Giannis Antetokounmpo has been suspended for Milwaukee’s final game of the regular season, handed a one-game penalty Wednesday for headbutting Washington’s Moe Wagner.
It’s unknown if Antetokounmpo would have played in Thursday’s game against Memphis anyway, given that the Bucks have already secured the No. 1 overall seed in the NBA playoffs that start next week.
Antetokounmpo will be eligible for Game 1 of the Bucks’ first-round series against Brooklyn, which will almost certainly be played Monday or Tuesday at Walt Disney World.
The incident happened Tuesday night, when Wagner took a charge against Antetokounmpo in the second quarter. Antetokounmpo appeared to be speaking angrily, followed Wagner to the other end and the headbutt took place a few seconds later.
Antetokounmpo said after the game that the headbutt was a “terrible action” and that if he “could go back, turn back time and go back to that play, I wouldn’t do it.” He said he was frustrated by an accumulation of contact, on a night where he had already been awarded 12 free throws in his first 10 minutes of play.
Antetokounmpo was ejected from the game for the Flagrant-2 foul. He finishes the regular season with averages of 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists, numbers that are likely good enough to win him a second consecutive NBA MVP award.
West goes down to wire
A team is going to reach the Western Conference playoffs with a losing record for the first time in 23 years, which ordinarily would not be exciting news.
This year, it’s the talk of the NBA.
And the race has come down to the last possible day.
On Thursday, four teams — Portland, Memphis, Phoenix and San Antonio — will finally decide which two clubs get spots in the play-in series to determine the No. 8 seed in the West playoffs.
Portland and Memphis control their fates, while Phoenix and San Antonio must win and get help. The regular season ends Friday, but all four of the West play-in contenders wrap up play and decide matters Thursday.
“We can finally look at it,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “It’s our next step. We know we’re not totally in control of our fate, but we put ourselves in a good position. Nobody would have guessed the Phoenix Suns would have been in this position when all of this started.”
The Suns are 7-0 at the season restart, the darlings of the NBA bubble — but finishing the seeding games at 8-0 doesn’t even guarantee them a play-in spot. Phoenix plays Dallas in a 4 p.m. game, the same time as a matchup between Memphis and Milwaukee.
San Antonio faces Utah at 6:30 p.m., and Portland plays Brooklyn at 9 p.m. In potentially bad news for the Spurs — who are bidding to be the first team in NBA history to make 23 consecutive playoff appearances — the Mavericks, Bucks and Nets are all locked into their various postseason spots and have nothing at stake.
“The way things have been down the stretch for these games, as tight as it’s been, it’s been pretty exciting,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said.
Portland goes into the final day of the West race a half-game up on Memphis, which is technically ninth because it holds the head-to-head tiebreaker with 10th-place Phoenix. San Antonio, in 11th, is also just a half-game back of Portland.
“Just got to out there and perform,” Spurs forward Keldon Johnson said. “We’re going to wake up Thursday and we’re going to be ready to go. We’re definitely going to leave it all out on the court. No doubt in my mind.”
The play-in series between the eighth- and ninth-place teams after Thursday’s games begins Saturday; the No. 9 team must win Saturday and Sunday to advance, the No. 8 team has to win just once.
At stake: A matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers in a West first-round series.
Pacers give McMillan one-year extension
Before the league’s teams arrived in the NBA bubble, Indiana Pacers coach Nate McMillan and president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard started discussing a potential contract extension.
On Wednesday, the Pacers added another year to McMillan’s current deal, which was set to expire after next season.
“It’s just a one-year extension. I felt that was appropriate for both sides,” McMillan told reporters on a pregame Zoom call. “Normally, I don’t do any negotiations ‘till after the season. But this has been an unusual season for all of us — coaches, players and management — and we’d been talking about this. We just thought a one-year extension really was appropriate.”
Through Tuesday, McMillan had gone 181-136 in four seasons, taking the Pacers to the playoffs every year, and needed one more win to break a tie with Rick Carlisle for the third-most career victories in the franchise’s NBA history.
When the playoffs begin next week, McMillan will be trying to lead the Pacers into the second round for the first time since 2014.
“What Nate has done in four seasons with our franchise merits this extension,” Pritchard said. “Between injuries and changes in personnel, he and his coaching staff have adapted and produced positive results. He also represents the franchise, the city and our state in a first-class manner.‘'
McMillan is 659-588 in 16 seasons as a head coach, putting him 22nd in NBA history in victories.
“Great news coming from the front office today that they have extended Coach another year,” guard Malcolm Brogdon wrote on Twitter. “We need one healthy year to prove how good we can be.”
NBA reports no positive tests
The NBA still has not had a confirmed coronavirus case among players inside the season-restart bubble at Walt Disney World.
The league released updated numbers Wednesday showing none of the 342 players who were tested daily since the league last released results on Aug. 5 has had a confirmed positive.
There has not been a player positive yet since teams began entering the bubble more than a month ago. There were two cases of players testing positive upon their arrival at Disney, both of which were found before either made it out of the initial mandatory in-room quarantine.
Visitors may be allowed in Bubble
The league detailed the policies for guest arrivals to teams on Wednesday in a memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. The opportunity to bring guests into the bubble at Walt Disney World will be only for teams advancing to the second round of the playoffs, and the earliest any guest could satisfy quarantine rules and be reunited with a player is Aug. 31.
In most cases, players would be limited to four guests. The league told teams that any guests would have to be either family members, “longtime close personal friends with whom a player has an established, pre-existing, and known personal relationship,” private security staff and established family childcare providers.
Those who won’t be allowed into the bubble: “trainers, physical or massage therapists, personal chefs, hair/apparel stylists, tattoo artists, and current/prospective business partners, and certified agents (other than family members), among others,” the memo said.