12:18 AM ET

Eric WoodyardESPN

MILWAUKEE — Though they’re fierce opponents on the court docket, each being All-Star Sport captains, Giannis Antetokounmpo stated he’s impressed by LeBron James’ potential to carry out at an elite stage at age 35.

Earlier than they beforehand tipped off, 11 days forward of James’ December birthday, Antetokounmpo even referred to James as an “alien” to be taking part in so properly.

“It is wonderful. He is 35 and taking part in at a excessive stage,” Antetokounmpo stated Wednesday as his Milwaukee Bucks ready to face James’ Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. “He simply leads the trail for us.

“Lots of occasions we predict that, ‘OK, we’ll retire at 35,’ however seeing a man at 35 being nonetheless top-three finest participant on the planet, that makes us need to be there. Makes me need to be there in the future, so I’ve obtained to maintain caring for my physique, consuming the appropriate manner, being wholesome, and as I stated — he paved the best way, and hopefully we are able to simply observe.”

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Antetokounmpo, 25, has adopted a meticulous pregame ritual, which begins six hours earlier than tipoff and consists of zipping his legs in NormaTec restoration boots earlier than video games. Afterward, he would not depart the world till he ices his legs earlier than showering.

These behind-the-scenes efforts are serving to Antetokounmpo common profession numbers following his MVP season. He posted 29 factors, 12 rebounds and 6 assists in 28 minutes Wednesday as Milwaukee rebounded from a loss Monday at Miami with a 119-100 rout of Indiana.

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Antetokounmpo is even deleting social media to be centered on Friday’s recreation at Los Angeles.

Towards the Pacers, Antetokounmpo prolonged his streak of scoring no less than 25 factors to 11 consecutive house video games, marking the longest run by a Bucks participant since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did so in 13 straight in 1975, in line with ESPN Stats & Info analysis.

The Bucks, who will not follow Thursday, will go into Staples Heart with an NBA-best 53-9 file. They’ve a 28% probability to win no less than 70 video games this season, in line with ESPN’s Basketball Energy Index (BPI), however for now, they’re locked in on beating the Lakers, who at 47-13 lead the Western Convention.

“Clearly, they’re gonna attempt to get payback. We beat ’em fairly dangerous,” Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe stated. “They’re gonna attempt to come out robust, so we simply gotta match their depth. They’re on the prime for a cause — they have two of the perfect gamers within the league and an awesome supporting solid. So we simply gotta attempt to match their depth.”

Mentioned Khris Middleton: “I do not need to put an excessive amount of on it. … There are such a lot of issues that go into it. We simply cannot say it will be a Finals preview. We’ve got to go step-by-step, not skipping something. Hopefully we get there. Who is aware of if they will get there.”

Antetokounmpo knocked down a career-best 5 Three-pointers within the groups’ earlier matchup on Dec. 19 to assist Milwaukee win 111-104, however he expects this one to be completely different, with attainable NBA Finals implications on the road.

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“Simply go there and simply play good basketball. As I stated, the Lakers are gonna come play arduous. We all know that. I watched the sport final night time. They performed extraordinarily arduous. They performed by Anthony Davis, LeBron was facilitating, guys have been taking pictures the ball, they have been operating to the nook, they have been taking part in good basketball,” Antetokounmpo stated. “And so they misplaced the primary recreation, so that they’re gonna come out and attempt to win the second.

“However on the finish of the day, we gotta do what we do, which is defend and run to the nook and run to our spots, transfer the ball, take the open shot, make the appropriate play, drive the lanes. We have performed this two years now — a yr and a half, nearly two years — and issues care for itself. In order a frontrunner, I simply gotta do this, and as a crew, we simply gotta keep on observe.”