Giannis Antetokounmpo Elevating Game When Bucks Need It Most

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Giannis Antetokounmpo celebrates in a recent game.
(Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Colton Pool @CPoolReporter May 13, 2022, 8:52 AM

TD Garden erupted, a moment of bedlam, as the Celtics built their lead up to double digits. It felt like a precursor to Boston taking a pivotal advantage in the series.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had other ideas.

He casually dribbled down the court and knocked down a 3-pointer to slash away at that lead. The Bucks, who have NBA Finals odds of +400, were within striking distance still.

Antetokounmpo went off for 40 points, and Milwaukee stole a win in Boston. The Bucks are one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Antetokounmpo’s all-purpose impact ensured the Bucks would take control.

Boston Celtics-Milwaukee Bucks Playoff Game

The Celtics play at Milwaukee in Game 6 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series at 7:30 p.m. ET Friday. The Celtics, who have NBA championship odds of +1000, are 1.5-point underdogs, according to NBA betting lines.

The series was tied at two until Wednesday’s clash. The Celtics possessed the lead for ample time until the final stretch as the Bucks came back to win 110-107.

Antetokounmpo made 16 of 27 shots, 2 of 5 from deep, for a game-high 40 points. He tacked on 11 rebounds and three assists.

“It feels good. But at the end of the day, can’t get too high, can’t get too low,” Antetokounmpo said. “The job’s not done.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo Scoring in the Playoffs

When talking about a cut on his face after Wednesday’s win, Antetokounmpo joked “it’s been a rough couple days.”

His output would say otherwise.

Antetokounmpo has been turning in astounding offensive performances as of late. He’s scored 116 points in the last three games alone.

On Monday, he totaled 34 points, 18 rebounds and five assists while making 14 of 32 shots (43.8%). The game prior, he tallied 42 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists on 16-for-30 shooting (53.3%).

For the playoffs, he’s third in the NBA in player impact estimate and seventh in net rating.

This postseason, Antetokounmpo averages 31.1 points on 50.7% shooting to go with 13 rebounds and 6.6 assists. Those are all increases on his regular season numbers.

“Just being (Giannis),” Bucks guard Jrue Holiday said. “We rely on him for so many things, defensively but especially offense. He kind of gets us going.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Versatility

Antetokounmpo’s game revolves around his driving expertise. At 6-foot-11, 242 pounds, the two-time MVP can get to the rim almost anytime he wants with his combination of speed and size.

But he does more than that. Much more.

As inconsistent of a shooter Antetokounmpo is, he made a pivotal 3 with 1:40 to go on Wednesday. That cut Boston’s lead to 105-102.

“I work on it as much as I can,” Antetokounmpo said. “At the end of the day, nobody is perfect and understand that, but at the end of the day, you put the time in and I want to be aggressive.

“Sometimes I’m going to miss, sometimes I’m going to make it, but at the end of the day, I’ve got to stay aggressive. That’s what my teammates want me to do. But all I can do is put the work in.”

Antetokounmpo dominates in the paint, as he did Wednesday during the second quarter. After an offensive rebound, he slammed down a thunderous dunk.

He’s second in the league during the playoffs in rebound percentage.

Antetokounmpo is also second in the NBA postseason in usage percentage, as he can win in various situations. That included on a post-up against defensive stalwart Al Horford late in the first half.

Antetokounmpo also serves as a facilitator of the Bucks’ offense. That was on display in the fourth quarter when his pass set up Pat Connaughton for an open 3.

Antetokounmpo is fifth in the playoffs in assist percentage, ahead of the likes of Stephen Curry.

Often lurking near the hoop to prevent easy drives, Antetokounmpo also serves as an anchor of Milwaukee’s defense. He’s third in the league in defensive rating since the playoffs began.

When Boston was up 105-102 with under a minute to go, Antetokounmpo came up with a steal. His instigation of a fast break cascaded into Holiday’s game-tying 3.

“When we’re getting stops, he’s at his best. We’re at our best,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He does a little bit of everything.”

Khris Middleton Injury

Antetokounmpo has been especially vital with Khris Middleton missing time. The All-Star who was key in the Bucks winning last year’s title has been out for the whole Boston series with a knee injury.

“Obviously Khris is a big part of what we do. We can say we don’t need Khris, it’s going to be a lie,” Antetokounmpo said. “We cannot think that way. We’ve got to keep playing good basketball. We’ve got to keep putting ourselves in positions to win, and hopefully Khris can be healthy to come back and join us and help us.”

Until then, Antetokounmpo may be asked to keep up this pace.

“We always give everything we have,” he said. “I believe everybody has that trust that we’re going to make the right plays. We’re going to make that extra pass, the effort’s always going to be there no matter what the outcome is. I feel like this no matter what the outcome is.”

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About the Author

Colton Pool

Read More @CPoolReporter

Colton Pool is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM living in Bozeman, Montana, focusing on the NFL and NBA. Previously, he covered Montana State football at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and worked at newspapers in his home state of North Dakota. He graduated from North Dakota State in 2015.

Colton Pool is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM living in Bozeman, Montana, focusing on the NFL and NBA. Previously, he covered Montana State football at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and worked at newspapers in his home state of North Dakota. He graduated from North Dakota State in 2015.