NBA Playoffs: Kawhi Leonard's experience made a difference, admits Giannis

Kawhi Leonard's experience as a former NBA champion made him the star man in the Eastern Conference Finals, says Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo guarding Kawhi Leonard during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals between Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors.   -  Getty Images

Giannis Antetokounmpo acknowledged that Kawhi Leonard's playoff experience was key to the Toronto Raptors' Eastern Conference Finals win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

The series was billed as Antetokounmpo against Leonard - and the former gained the early advantage when his Bucks opened up a 2-0 lead with back-to-back victories at home.

However, Milwaukee could not build on its early advantage and lost the next four on the spin, finishing with Saturday's 100-94 reverse in Toronto that sent the Raptors through to their first NBA Finals.

While Toronto will be breaking new ground as a franchise, star man Leonard has won the title before with the San Antonio Spurs.

"You can tell [his experience] from the way he was playing - not just in this series but the previous series [against the Philadelphia 76ers], as well," Antetokounmpo told a news conference.

"The way he plays, he has so much patience. He knows what he's going to do, he has confidence in himself and he has the experience. He's been here before, he's been to the Finals multiple times.

"He played well and he did everything he could to help his team win. He was a tough guy to guard for our team."

Milwaukee appeared to suffer when its star player was stifled by the Raptors' defensive strategy, yet the MVP candidate had no frustrations with the way his team played.

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"I don't think anything has to change," Antetokounmpo said. "At the end of the day, we just have to trust one another. The [Raptors'] game plan was to double-team me, make me not get a rhythm, but what I did was trusted my team-mates, which is what I've done all year.

"If, for us, we lose by doing that, by trusting one another, by moving the ball, by doing what we've done all year, that's okay."

'This is just the start'

Antetokounmpo is confident his team will come back as a better team next season, suggesting it could be "just the start" for Milwaukee, which won its solitary championship back in 1971.

"When you're out 2-0, that obviously means nothing," he told a news conference. "You've got to learn how to close out games, especially after Game 3. We've got to get better as a team and we've got to get better individually. I think this is just the start of a long journey.

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"We're going to get better and we're going to come back next year, believing in who we are and believing in what we've built this year. Hopefully we can be in the same situation and be the ones moving forward.

"I've got to go back home and spend some time with my family. After that, I'm going to get in contact with the coaching staff and see what we can do as a team and how I can get better individually.

"It's something I take pride in, how I can get better in the offseason.