The way that the All-Star forward and the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks finished off the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday may prove to be just as important for a team heading out for an important West Coast road trip.
Antetokounmpo returned from a one-game absence with an ankle injury to score 25 points, and the Bucks' held on after building a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter for a 106-103 win.
"We got stops to win the game," center John Henson said. "We held the ship together, tried to make it as tough as possible on them down the stretch."
The Spurs trailed by 15 points with 8 minutes left before rallying to get within three with 35 seconds left on Pau Gasol's putback.
Eric Bledsoe missed a 3-pointer on the other end for the Bucks. San Antonio rushed down court to get one last shot off, but Milwaukee's Khris Middleton blocked Dejounte Murray's 3-point attempt from the right wing with 3.7 seconds left.
The loss snapped the Spurs' six-game winning streak.
"Sometimes we opt to just take it when the defense can't get set and look for a shot," coach Gregg Popovich said about the final play. "But we didn't react well to that. Because of that, I probably should have called a timeout."
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 34 points for the Spurs. Gasol had 22 on 10-of-15 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds.
The Bucks built just enough of a cushion in the third quarter, when they shot 64 percent (16 of 25) and outhustled the Spurs defensively for loose balls and deflections. Bledsoe scored 11 of his 23 points in the third.
This was exactly how Bucks coach Joe Prunty wanted his team to finish against a perennial playoff contender before departing on a four-game road swing. Milwaukee is trying to move up from the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with nine games left in the regular season.
The Bucks have won two straight after losing two straight.
"Now we're feeling good about ourselves," Antetokounmpo said. "This road trip is going to be big for us."