Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has been phenomenal thus far in his first NBA Finals, averaging over 32 points and 14 rebounds in the 2-2 series. This is especially noteworthy considering his status for the Finals was up in the air due to a nasty knee hyperextension that forced him to miss the last two games of the conference finals.
Despite his dominant performance, Antetokounmpo raised some eyebrows in the Bucks' 120-100 Game 3 win over the Phoenix Suns when he asked for a substitution at the 8:30 mark of the first quarter. Over the past few seasons Antetokounmpo has regularly checked out about halfway through the first quarter, but this was far too early. The TV announcers speculated that Antetokounmpo may have been overhyped for his first home Finals game and perhaps needed to catch his breath for a few minutes, and feared a possible re-aggravation of his knee injury. He checked back in about two minutes later and showed no ill effects, finishing the game with 41 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
The story became even stranger, however, when Antetokounmpo did nearly the exact same thing in the Bucks' 109-103 Game 4 win on Wednesday, checking out at the 8:29 mark of the first quarter and coming back in with 7:00 left. The announcers once again assumed he needed a quick breather or something was amiss physically, but after Game 4 Antetokounmpo gave us the real reason for his prompt but brief absences in the opening minutes of such crucial games.
"I went to do, uh, how do you guys say politely? I went to take a tinkle. A tinkle? Yeah, yeah. I went to take a tinkle and came back," Antetokounmpo told reporters. "Both games. I went to take a tinkle and went back."
Who among us hasn't been there? It's quite plausible that with all the excitement of his first home playoff games, he forgot a crucial part of his pre-game routine -- a trip to the restroom.
We also can't rule out a bit of gamesmanship from Antetokounmpo here. It's just very hard to imagine that a player who has waited his whole life to play in the NBA Finals would miss even one minute if it weren't absolutely necessary. Couldn't he just wait for the first timeout of the game? If he did tweak his knee or run out of breath, those probably aren't weaknesses that he wants the Suns to know about. So "TinkleGate" could just be a fabrication to throw off the scent.
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In this very Finals, we've already seen Chris Paul deny that he was getting his left hand looked at by trainers behind the cover of a towel in Game 1, telling sideline reporter Malika Andrews, "I don't know what you're talking about," with a wry smile. Check out the 1:12 mark of the video below.
All this to say that yes, it's entirely possible that Giannis had to "tinkle" at the exact same moment of Games 3 and 4. It's also entirely possible that something else is going on. All we know is that the early absences haven't seemed to affect his game, as the Bucks have come back from an 0-2 deficit to tie the series for the second time this postseason. All eyes will be on Giannis around the 8:30 mark of the first quarter in Saturday's pivotal Game 5 in Phoenix.