The Phoenix Suns are looking for urgent answers to contain Hurricane Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose performance in these playoffs is at the level of the best, and prevent the Milwaukee Bucks from just snatching their advantage in the NBA Finals on Wednesday.
In a lightning-fast recovery, Antetokoumpo went from missing the final games of the conference final against the Hawks with a knee injury to looking his most dominant version in the Finals.
A two-time MVP winner, Antetokounmpo has surpassed 40 points and 10 rebounds in the last two games, a feat only previously accomplished in a Finals by Shaquille O’Neal (2000) and LeBron James (2016).
Overcoming many years of trouble in the playoffs, the Greek power forward has 11 games this postseason with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds and is only ahead of O’Neal (13, 2000) and at that mark for the moment. Elgin Baylor (12, 1962).
On Sunday, in the first game of the series in Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo finally had the necessary support of his squires Khris Middleton (18 points) and Jrue Holiday (21) for the Bucks to add a resounding first win (120-100) and reduce the disadvantage with Phoenix to 2-1.
Sunday’s game exposed the Suns’ struggles to stop Antetokounmpo, a 2.11m-tall force of nature who handles the ball and runs the court like a point guard.
“It is a compliment that there are three people in front of me preventing me from entering the painting,” Antetokounmpo said Tuesday.
At the same time, I hate him. But in the end, you have to find a way to play with that, “said the Greek, who assured that his left knee” feels very good. “
«I am happy that we have two days in between (of matches). Now we have time to take care of our body. It’s good for us mentally and physically, ”he said.
– No replacement for Ayton –
Giannis’ main defender, young center DeAndre Ayton (2.11m), is being one of the big revelations of the playoffs, but on Sunday he ran into foul trouble early and coach Monty Williams found no reliable replacement on the bench. .
“I am not going to let any of the fouls that were called change my aggressiveness,” Ayton advanced on Tuesday.
But it was quite frustrating. We really wanted that match and we needed a little more effort. They played harder than us, “acknowledged the number one in the 2018 Draft, averaging 16.7 points and 13 rebounds in the Finals at 22 years old.
When he has been defended by Ayton in these Finals, Antetokounmpo scores 0.93 points per play with 46% accuracy in field goals while if he has another marker his performance rises to 1.38 points and 75%.
Croatian Dario Saric, sixth man for the Suns, was seriously injured in the opening game of the Finals and the only pivot left in the rotation is Frank Kaminsky, who averages just 1.8 points in 6.3 minutes in these playoffs. .
The young Jalen Smith (2.08m), chosen with the number 10 of the last Draft, does not enter into the coach’s plans and has not yet made his debut in the Finals.
The Bucks, on the other hand, have a powerful inside game that also includes starting center Brook Lopez and his replacement Bobby Portis.
– The arbitration in question –
Following Sunday’s clash, Monty Williams turned a spotlight on umpiring, noting that Antetokounmpo threw 17 free throws for 16 of all the Suns players combined.
“The difference in free throws is what it is, that’s why I said it,” Williams explained Tuesday. “That is not complaining, it is stating the facts.”
“I try to be respectful,” said the coach, denying that he wanted to send a message to the referee. I don’t want to play that way. It is not what I am. Maybe I was wrong about that. I’ve seen coaches put it into practice. I just know I’m not that good at it.
Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer denied that his colleague’s remarks could put pressure on umpires.
It’s the old playoff ritual. I don’t think it has any impact. I’ve seen it both ways. I think the referees are limited to whistle the game, “he said.
“We are always frustrated with them and yet they are still the best referees in the world. I don’t think it has anything to do with the game, “he said. (AFP)