About two hours before Tuesday's Game 5 against the Miami Heat, reigning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo was spotted getting shots up, and then doing strength and flexibility work with a member of the Milwaukee Bucks' staff.
Ultimately, the Bucks ruled out Antetokounmpo (sprained right ankle) for the 103-94 loss that eliminated the Bucks from the playoffs.
Antetokounmpo says he "tried to get ready for the game" despite ultimately being ruled inactive.
"Tried to do whatever is necessary to put my body in a position to play," he said.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer watched the on-court session closely before the team made the decision. His warm-up was short and largely stationary without much lateral movement -- which typically is a big part of his normal routine.
It was the first time Antetokounmpo missed a playoff game in his career.
"He's not ready, he's not healthy. We can't put him at risk," Budenholzer said after the loss. "Giannis would always play. He wants to be there for his teammates. Really, really hard for Giannis. But I think it was pretty clear from everybody probably except for his perspective what needed to happen."
Antetokounmpo reinjured his ankle in the first half of Game 4, which Milwaukee rallied to win 118-115 in overtime. He also participated in a light, stationary practice Monday.
His teammates tried to do the same in Game 5, but shot only 36% from the field -- their second-worst field goal percentage in any game this season.
Khris Middleton led Milwaukee with 23 points on 8-for-25 shooting. His 17 missed shots tied for most in a game in his career, including the playoffs and regular season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Milwaukee was 53-12 before the league suspended play because of the coronavirus pandemic. They returned to the NBA restart inside the bubble to finish 8-10, including the postseason, and never seemed in sync. Still, Bucks players refused to make excuses about the conditions.
"We're not blaming anything, not blaming anybody. Sometimes the game is funny and credit the Miami Heat, they've got a lot of talented guys," said Bucks wing Wesley Matthews. "A lot of tough guys, they're a great team and they won the series."
"There's no excuse but we just have to be better that's all," said Bucks guard Donte DiVincenzo. "We've gotta prepare this offseason and be ready to go next season, whatever next season looks like. Whenever it comes, I think everybody's gonna take it more on themselves to do a great job and prepare for next year so this hurts."
Antetokounmpo now has a big decision ahead of him. He needs to evaluate his future in Milwaukee, where he could sign a $220 million supermax extension.
Assuming he wins MVP again, Antetokounmpo would become the fourth player in league history to win consecutive MVPs and not reach the Finals in either season, joining LeBron James, Steve Nash and former Bucks center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
He wants to change that.
"As a team, we had fun. I think we enjoyed every minute, second in the bubble. Obviously, playing in a place like this with no family, no fans, it was tough," Antetokounmpo said. "Obviously, that's not an excuse, it's tough for everybody, but looking back to the bubble, nobody's going to be happy for the outcome we had in our playoff run."
He added: "At the end of the day, we've got to learn from everything that goes on in your life and in your career. Hopefully we can learn from this and get better as a team and come back and hopefully we can build a culture in Milwaukee for many years, that we can come out here and compete every single year for a championship."