LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo was fed up with the pushing and shoving.
The normally mild-mannered Bucks star lost his cool Tuesday night and was ejected in the second quarter of Milwaukee’s 126-113 win over the Washington Wizards after he headbutted Moritz Wagner.
Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo, who didn’t like the call in what was a chippy game early on.
During a break in the action with Milwaukee challenging the call, Antetokounmpo approached Wagner on the way to the bench and started jabbering at him before headbutting him and drawing the ejection.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said the tension had been building all game between the teams.
“This is nothing new,” Budenholzer said. “Giannis has been dealing with this for a long time. He is the MVP. He normally is phenomenal and today was a slip-up. In some ways it could be one of the best things that happened today as a learning moment. We will all remember that we have to keep our cool — players and coaches.”
Brook Lopez scored 24 points in 22 minutes and reserve Sterling Brown had 23 points for the Bucks in a game that had no playoff implications. The Bucks had already clinched the top seed in the East, while the Wizards, who fell to 0-7 in the NBA bubble, had already been eliminated from playoff contention.
“He was fed up,” Brown said of Antetokounmpo. “There was a lot of dirty cheap shots that come his way. And he reacted. … (But) he gets a lot of cheap shots and garbage plays that come his way.”
Added Budenholzer: “It was unfortunate that there wasn’t a whistle on a couple of different situations” before the ejection.
Antetokounmpo did not appear on Zoom conference calls after the game.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks said he has a lot of respect for Antetokounmpo as a player, but added there is “no place for that” in the league.
“That was a very strange few seconds,” Brooks said. “Moe stepped in and took a charge. That is what you have to do. You have to drop off him and force him to shoot and if he drives step up and take a charge. A few seconds later, he took a headbutt.”
Antetokounmpo, the reigning NBA MVP, finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. The headbutt could draw a punishment from the league and keep him out of the team’s final seeding game against the Grizzlies on Thursday.
Frank Mason had 19 points for the Bucks, who played their reserves extensively.
Brown said he isn’t worried about other teams now trying to lure Antetokounmpo into losing his temper when the playoffs begin as a strategy to get him out of the game. He said teammates will have to remind the big man to stay calm.
“There’s always a target on your back when you are the MVP and the No. 1 seed,” Brown said.
Washington’s Ish Smith downplayed the event, saying “it’s basketball.”
He said it might have been a carryover from February when the two battled it out in a game in the nation’s capitol.
“Giannis brings the juice; Mo brings the juice,” Smith said. “They love their money so I don’t think either of them are going to throw their hands. A little rah-rah love back and forth. They are both guys that play hard and are edgy and sometimes your emotions run high. … I don’t think much of it.”
Rui Hachimura led the Wizards with 20 points, and Smith added 19.
“The Bucks have high IQ players and it was a learning experience for us,” Brooks said.
Bucks: Lopez looks to be in playoff shape, converting 9 of 11 shots from the field and all five of his 3-point attempts.
Wizards: Were outrebounded 53-44.
Bucks: Play Grizzlies on Thursday.
Wizards: Play Celtics on Thursday.
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