But Milwaukee's confidence in its own identity delivered a 119-112 win over the Boston Celtics on Friday at HP Field House.
The game's opening minutes saw Brook Lopez repeatedly swallow up Jayson Tatum's driving layup attempts, allowing Antetokounmpo to thunder up and down the floor, mostly unimpeded.
Aided by an uncharacteristic 17 first-half Milwaukee fouls—the Bucks averaged 19.2 per game prior to the shutdown—and some inspiring bench play from Grade-A chaos agent Marcus Smart, Boston impressively cut the Bucks' lead to six by halftime and kept things close throughout the third and fourth quarters.
Smart led the Celtics with 23 points, dramatically outplaying Tatum and his 2-of-18 effort.
Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors took four straight games from Milwaukee in last year's playoffs, eliminating Antetokounmpo and branding the Bucks with the stigma of being dominant yet solvable.