After getting completely embarrassed by the Brooklyn Nets in Game 2 of the 2021 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokoumpo and the Milwaukee Bucks have rewritten the script by winning Games 3 and 4 on their home court to tie up the series at two games apiece.
After last year’s embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs, much blame was placed on Coach Mike Budenholzer and management for not putting enough to surround the reigning two-time NBA MVP at the time.
Last offseason, however, they pulled the trigger by trading for point guard Jrue Holiday, one of the most underrated players in the NBA for quite some time now. He is a decent shooter, has a knack for putting guys in the right place, and most importantly, provides great defense on the other side of the floor.
Not only did they bring in Holiday, but they picked up PJ Tucker midseason in order to increase their toughness and overall physicality (something they lacked last year).
In the past two games, when the series seemed to take an unforeseen turn, Giannis has shown up by posting two 30 point games to go along with double-digit rebounds.
To make matters worse for the Nets, All-Star point guard, Kyrie Irving, suffered a sprained ankle in Game 4, which will keep him sidelined for Game 5 and maybe beyond. Keep in mind, James Harden has already been out of the lineup since Game 1 of this series as well. He is rumored to be expected to play tonight; however, it will be interesting to see how healthy his hamstring actually is returning to action.
Thus, it puts a lot of the responsibility on Kevin Durant to carry the load.
Feeling the Heat
As unfortunate as these injuries are for the Nets, the Bucks have the advantage now more than ever against Brooklyn. They must keep their momentum going and keep the pressure on their opponent, which starts with their Greek Freak superstar.
If Antetokounmpo cannot get it done against the hobbling Nets, his superstratum and glory will be proven to be premature. “The moment” thus far for him in his postseason career has proven to be too much. Many around the league, however, have given him a pass due to poor coaching/supporting cast.
This time around, however, there is no excuse, especially since the Nets are not nearly at full strength. Charles Barkley on TNT even said that “If the Bucks fail, it will be the biggest choke in NBA history” (cue the “GUAARAANTEEEE!!”).
The amount of pressure on Giannis and the Bucks to perform is at an all-time high. If they are not able to get it done, I foresee a shakeup in the offseason. I would not expect Coach Budenholzer to be back, and an inevitable divorce between Giannis and the Bucks would come to fruition in the near future.