NBA 2021 Finals – Milwaukee Bucks haven’t lost another legendary performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo
MILWAUKEE – It’s easy to forget that just six days ago Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was questionable showing up on the field for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. A more than two-decade journey that began in the humble neighborhood of Athens, Greece, in Sepolia and came to the door of an NBA title has been potentially stuck, due to a hyperextension of his left knee .
Antetokounmpo finally played in Game 1 of the Finals against the Phoenix Suns, and less than a week later that injury is undetectable. On Sunday night, Antetokounmpo continued his rampage through the most important games of his life, as he gutted the Suns ‘defense for 41 points in Game 3. Milwaukee crushed Phoenix 120-100 to reduce the Suns’ lead. Suns at 2-1.
“I’ve seen him do a lot of things like that,” said Bucks teammate Khris Middleton. “It doesn’t surprise me. Seeing him do this for a while now, and now it’s on the biggest stage and now everyone gets to see what he’s going through; how he’s hurt and he still finds it. a way to go there and compete and be productive and be dominant at the same time. “
Finals are basketball’s ultimate chess match, as each team calibrates their strategy game in play, quarterback to quarterback, or even possession in possession. The Bucks are tweaking their pick-and-roll coverage. The Suns erect walls of varying length and thickness to repel Antetokounmpo. Both teams try to optimize the individual clashes.
But sometimes the most important adjustment is skill.
The Bucks returned to Milwaukee and came to life on their home soil with a strong shooting performance from the top to the bottom of the roster, led by Antetokounmpo. Six of Milwaukee’s top seven players have posted actual shooting percentages over 55%, and the Bucks have compiled their best team field goal percentage since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
No one was more efficient than Antetokounmpo. He attacked the basket relentlessly en route to his 41 points on 14 of 23 shots from the field. He is only the second player in Finals history to record at least 40 points and 10 rebounds in consecutive games, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He joined the select company of Shaquille O’Neal (2000 finals).
Said Michael Jordan nicked four consecutive games with 40 points in the final, Antetokounmpo opposed:
“I am not Michael Jordan.”
Antetokounmpo was also the second player in history to score at least 25 points in the paint and rack up 10 second chance points in a playoff game in the last 25 playoffs, joining – guess who – O ‘ Neal.
“I’m just over there trying to enjoy the game, trying to play, trying to put myself in a position to be successful,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s what I try to do. You know, when I take each possession at a time, when I have a possession in front of me, I try to put myself in a position to be successful.
“Sometimes it’s driving the ball. Sometimes it seals the way. Sometimes it creates a screen.”
Part playmaker, part wrecker, Antetokounmpo may have achieved the iconic performance of his career, a performance that captured the full extent of his skills. He was playing an intuitive and precise game in which he skillfully executed possessions and was rarely out of control. When inundated by multiple defenders, he effortlessly returned the ball to Middleton or Jrue Holiday or gave an inside pass to Pat Connaughton or Bobby Portis.
When Antetokounmpo or a teammate missed a shot, he feasted on the offensive glass. His four offensive rebounds resulted in 10 points – including a few and-1s.
“He gets so much attention every time he has the ball on the perimeter and on the paint,” Middleton said. “Makes it easy for everyone when it comes to finding gaps and being able to have open eyes. “
Giannis Antetokounmpo explains what needs to happen in Game 4 for the Bucks to tie the final.
For all of his exploits, Antetokounmpo endured one of the most dubious scenarios of the playoffs: his struggles on the free throw line. His shaking exhibits have sparked ridicule from opposing crowds and dismay among Milwaukee worshipers. Arriving in the final, he had converted only 53.7% of his free throw attempts.
On Sunday Antetokounmpo was able to count to 10, then some – as he made 13 free throws. After working on the line for the entirety of the playoffs, Antetokounmpo looked more comfortable from the strip, going 13 for 17 (76.5%). With each successive match in the final, he improved his marksmanship from the line.
Holiday’s emergence of his shooting crisis delighted his teammates in Game 3. The Bucks point guard paced the team defensively throughout the playoffs, and he pressured the Suns’ defense to dribble him in. Game 2, but Holiday failed to put together a full offensive effort in Phoenix. On Sunday, he ignited the Bucks in the third quarter, when they put on a 24-6 streak that would lead them to victory.
“We need him to keep playing like this,” Antetokounmpo said of Holiday. “We trust him. He’s our leader. He’s our leader. He’s one of our goal scorers. He’s one of our defenders. He’s a great basketball player, and he will continue to play. find ways to be successful. “
As Holiday generated better quality shots on Sunday and Antetokounmpo used his physique to the max, the Bucks prevailed by crafting a formula that fueled them for three seasons: beyond the arc marksmanship; a mark of physical defense that covers the field; and Antetokounmpo hurtling down the descent.
The attention Antetokounmpo demands helps facilitate the first part, his instincts and speed reinforce the second, and the third defies explanation. With each passing game in the final, the Bucks have moved closer to rediscovering themselves.
“We got better from Game 1 to Game 2. And now we got better from Game 2 to Game 3,” Antetokounmpo said. “We have to keep building. Keep trusting each other. Keep trusting winning habits. Keep making winning games. Keep competing hard and keep doing it together.”
The Bucks are now on that upward trajectory until Game 4 Wednesday (9 p.m. ET on ABC) in Milwaukee, knowing the streak can’t get any closer than 2-1.