Giannis Antetokounmpo could smell blood. Literally by the way. Victim of a blow, a red streak flowed from his eye to his cheek. That didn’t stop him from remaining fully focused on his mission. In fact, nothing could have kept him from it. Not at this time of the season, nor this time of a terribly important Game 5. The Celtics had the opportunity to win. They had to win. But despite 14 points ahead in the fourth quarter, they ended up cracking in front of their home crowd. Giannis saw it coming. He understood that the tide was turning after his cool three-pointer scored just under two minutes from the buzzer to bring the Bucks back three lengths. As the pressure mounted, the legs became heavier and heavier, the muscles more and more tense. But he wasn’t panicking. It is the champion’s own.
Rudy Tomjanovich, coach member of the NBA pantheon, said “that you should never underestimate the heart of a champion.” He was talking about Hakeem Olajuwon and his Rockets, crowned for the second time in a row in 1995 following a very chaotic regular season. Antetokounmpo does not only share the same Nigerian origins – more precisely Yoruba – with his glorious Like him, he is part of the race of the greatest basketball players of all time (and yes, already!) And it is better not to underestimate him, him, or his entire Milwaukee team.
Third in the East, without really making noise, the Wisconsin franchise was not considered a favorite by ESPN experts when facing that of Massachusetts. 14 of the 20 star insiders of the US giant bet on the Celtics. And that is clearly a lack of appreciation for the qualities of the Bucks and their superstar. The best basketball player on the planet, or in any case most certainly the most dominant. “What he does, I will be able to do on a basket at 2.40 meters. He does that on a basket at 3.05 meters facing the best players in the world“, testifies his teammate Jrue Holiday. Almost all the stars of this league need to be skilled at three-pointers. Not him. It’s a bonus, like that famous basket award in the last moments of Game 5. But this is not a necessity. He has converted only 6 of his 34 attempts from behind the arc since the start of the playoffs. A miserable 17% success rate. And yet he remains the most prolific player with more than 31 points per game.
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Giannis Antetokounmpo, the most physically dominant player since Shaquille O’Neal
Even the Boston defense, the one that brilliantly stifled Kevin Durant, a hell of a crack, and which limits the Greek as best as possible, ends up finding itself without a solution. How to defend against an athlete with the physique, power and size of a pivot but with the agility, mobility, liveliness and technical qualities of a leader? The term “unicorn” is used somewhat indiscriminately to describe some versatile interiors in the United States. But in reality, it really only sticks to him. For now, there is not a single player like him. And that raises a serious question: who can really stop him? Which profile to send on a mission on him? Al Horford, yet one of the most serious in the business, is beginning to show limits. “I don’t think it’s even possible to name even one NBA player capable of staying in front of him.“, says Nikola Vucevic, opponent defeated in 5 rounds in the first round. Pat Connaughton goes even further: “It’s hard to stop him, even with two on him.“Because in addition to being longer and stronger, even faster, Giannis Antetokounmpo is also an excellent passer. He is, with maestro Luka Doncic, the player who has offered the most assists concluded by a basket three-pointers this season. And that when he does not even play with real long-range shooting specialists. He sees over defenders from the top of his 211 centimeters. Especially since he has learned to look. One more evolution for a player who has never stopped progressing since his arrival in the NBA at 19 years old.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the star of the Bucks
Credit: Getty Images
So how did so many analysts, journalists or enthusiasts think that the Bucks would fall by the wayside based on such incredible individuality? Those will retort – rightly – that the series is not over and that the Celtics have had many opportunities to take the upper hand. Except that in the end, it’s the champions who win. And the champions are the Bucks, even if they are ultimately not treated as such by not being seen enough as the team to beat. These guys know the way. This group is more experienced. He is like his leader: he never doubts. This is the impression given by the men of Mike Budenholzer. Again with the mark of Antetokounmpo. He does not let himself down and does not withdraw after a defeat. It also does not ignite after a win. Neither too high nor too low. Always at work, always on the coal. Even his leadership is not highlighted enough. His teammates follow his lead. He’s not afraid of losing, so neither are they. He knows how to handle pressure. Again, a true champion.
Milwaukee, a team of champions
Khris Middleton’s injury could — and still can — give reason to believe Milwaukee will suffer. With hindsight, fortunately for the suspense that it is forfeited. There might not even be a match. Because this training is full of resources. She has everything. Hardness, intensity, heart, experience, talent, depth. She can punish opposing “small balls” by leaning on her two big bottoms, including a rejuvenated and metamorphosed Brook Lopez since he recovered from his back problems. It also relies on an exceptional defense (doesn’t defense win titles?), counting in its ranks the number one stopper in the NBA: Jrue Holiday. Marcus Smart may have been elected DPOY, but it was Holiday who blocked his layup attempt and then stole the ball from his hands in the last 7 seconds of Game 5. Two high class actions from a player who is considered by Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard and other superstars to be the best defenseman in the entire league.
Holiday only has one All-Star selection but he’s a very valuable basketball player. It is no longer the same since the title. As if that first ring had freed him. ” He flourishes », remarks even Giannis. “I love Jue. He always gives his all for the team. He always makes the effort. We are very similar, he and I. We don’t care about side effects. We are just here to win.“That’s exactly what they are doing. The road to the double is still riddled with pitfalls. Holiday will still have to defend hard while contributing in attack, he who has never been the most consistent of scorers. bench players will also have their role to play, bringing their touch and outside address. The Bucks are not perfect. Their victories are often even played on details. They are not invincible either. But to really thwart their plans, the franchises are already looking for the next Giannis Antetokounmpo, after trying to unearth the new LeBron James or the Stephen Curry for years. Except that for now, there is only one “Greek Freak.” And he’s wearing a Milwaukee jersey. That alone makes them big favorites in the competition.
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