Sunday, June 26

Like Magic, Giannis Antetokounmpo offers a personal masterpiece for the Bucks in the deciding factor of the NBA Finals.



Four decades from now, and, my God, it will be the year 2061 when 40 years have passed, people who love basketball will speak of this performance by Giannis Antetokounmpo with the reverence reserved for the best efforts of the best players in the sport.

Those who weren’t alive in 1980 to see rookie Magic Johnson transform from point guard to center, replacing an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and hitting 42 points and 15 rebounds over the Sixers in a Game 6 decider: They’ll have this. Giannis masterpiece. They will have been watching it at home on television, or in a bar or on the grass outside the Fiserv Forum or, for the lucky few, in the sand. Or they will be one of those people who will claim to have been in the building, even if it is a lie.

You will remember that Giannis scored 50 points – fifty! If you really are students of the game, you will also remember that he became one of only seven people to score 50 points in an NBA Finals game, each of his predecessors a certified legend of the game: Bob Petit, Elgin Baylor, Jerry. West, Rick Barry, Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

Now, Giannis Antetokounmpo is on that list and he fits comfortably in this esteemed company.

MORE: Antetokounmpo faces Kobe Bryant ‘challenge’ as Bucks win NBA Finals

He’s on that list because he had to be. Giannis didn’t score 50 points because he was flashy or cool, and certainly not because he’s the attention grabber or basketball. He scored 50 because if he had scored less, then the Bucks would be planning their trip back to Phoenix instead of celebrating the franchise’s first NBA title since 1971, claimed with a 105-98 win in Game 6 on Tuesday by the night on the Suns.

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In a game that was heartbreaking until 45 seconds remained, Antetokounmpo scored nearly half of Milwaukee’s points: 47.6 percent to be exact, the fourth-highest percentage any Finals player produced from his team’s points. He scored 13 of the Bucks’ 28 points in the final period, 20 of his 35 in the third. That’s 33 points in the second half, overwhelming a mountain of playing pressure and the Suns’ defensive efforts with their dynamism, skill, willpower and unerring sudden touch from the free throw line.

“I want to develop a time machine, that I can go back to my rookie year to win the Rookie of the Year award,” Antetokounmpo said at the postgame press conference. “And after I won the Rookie of the Year award, I will have won it all.”

Beyond 50 points, Antetokounmpo shot 16 of 25 from the field, 17 of 19 from the line, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked five shots. This was a complete destruction of all the defenders Phoenix put in front of him: Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder, and the unfortunate guards who occasionally attacked him.

“He’s just the top competitor, the top winner,” coach Mike Budenholzer told ESPN. “He protects every position. His understanding of what it takes to be great defensively – there are a lot of guys who won’t take the risk like he does at that end of the court. “

MORE: Antetokounmpo’s performance in Game 6 was iconic and excited the NBA world

This Milwaukee team destroyed much of the bullshit that has been sold over the past two decades regarding how to build an NBA team, regarding what is possible.

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Market size? Milwaukee is ranked 37th among metropolitan areas in the US That may be an obstacle to signing the best free agents away from other teams, but the Bucks were able to maintain their own stars, which meant extraordinary talent and continuity. .

Tanking? The Bucks have exercised a single-digit selection in the NBA Draft since 2009. The average draft position of the seven players who had a serious time in the deciding factor was 26, only Giannis made the team through that. process.

Explode it? We hear that bullshit so often when a team experiences regular season success but fails to advance into the playoffs – teams should drop everything and start over. The Bucks won more than 70 percent of their games in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, but never made it to the Finals.

That’s frustrating, sure, but it’s also NBA history. The “Bad Boy” Pistons came close to beating the Celtics before finally breaking through. Michael Jordan’s Bulls came close to defeating the Pistons before finally winning a championship.

These Bucks did not have the same regular season as their two predecessors, but they came back from a 2-0 down against the Nets and Suns and went from a 2-2 draw against the Hawks to win the last two games of the conference. end.

MORE: Bucks vs Suns score, results: Antetokounmpo leads Milwaukee to NBA championship

Antetokounmpo was selected 15th overall by the Bucks in 2013, a relative unknown except for those who closely follow the European game. Yet as amazing as the tape of his game was, the selection was widely ridiculed. Several criticized the team for passing Miami’s Shane Larkin. Bleacher Report stated that Giannis was not months away from being ready for the NBA, but “years” away. He started 71 games and averaged 12.7 points for a .500 Bucks team in his second season.

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Khris Middleton was selected 39th overall by the Pistons in the 2012 draft after three seasons at Texas A&M, but after an unspeakable rookie year there, he was lucky enough to be traded to Milwaukee and found a home. He and Antetokounmpo have been teammates ever since, blossoming to stardom simultaneously and making the decision to stay in Milwaukee a few years ago.

“It drives me every day to be great,” Middleton, who finished second on the team with 17 points, told ESPN.

“I wanted to do it here in the city,” Antetokounmpo said after receiving the Finals MVP trophy. “I wanted to do it with these guys. So I am happy. I’m happy I was able to do it. “

He did so much good in this game, tonight. But he could have been a little generous with those “us” things.




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