Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo thinks the Cleveland Cavaliers deserve more respect after their impressive defeat of the reigning champions.
The Cavs moved to 30-19 for the season, with eight wins from their past nine games, thanks to a dominant 115-99 home victory over the Bucks.
Cleveland have already comfortably surpassed their win total from last season, when they claimed just 22 victories and were in the draft lottery for the third year running, and only one side in the Eastern Conference has won more than their 30 games in 2021-22.
After falling behind in the first quarter, they dominated the middle phase of Thursday's game, beginning the second half with a three-pointer triple in 48 seconds before marching into a 93-72 lead.
Giannis tallied 26 points, nine rebounds and three assists on his return from a knee problem but his efforts were not enough.
Last year's Finals MVP said there is little doubt the Cavs are now contenders not just for the playoffs, but for the title.
"This is not the Cleveland we knew over the past few years," said Giannis, who brought chicken wings to his post-game media conference.
"They have a good team, and we have to respect them more. They're a playoff team and are fighting for the title themselves."
Giannis really brought a bucket of wings to the postgame presser & started chowing down. pic.twitter.com/Eurg1kSl0E— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 27, 2022
Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of arguably their best win of the season: "It's who we are. We take on all challenges.
"We don't run from anybody. We don't back down. We give everybody our best shot."
Counterpart Mike Budenholzer had few complaints about the result, adding of the Cavs: "They played lights out tonight.
"I don't know what the right analogy is, but they played really well. They beat us pretty good.
"Live ball turnovers is when transition defense is the toughest, and we made a lot of them."