But if we judged the state of the Bucks solely by the way the superstar advances Giannis Antetokounmpo approached its media obligations, it would be easy to assume that Milwaukee was the team leading two games to zero, rather than facing a dire situation heading into Sunday night’s Game 3 here at the Fiserv Forum.
Take Saturday afternoon, for example. Antetokounmpo, carrying heavy ice packs on both knees and without shoes, walked to the podium, looked at the gathered media and said with a smile, “This is going to be fun.” Then, when asked the first question of his session, he first looked ahead and just said, “I’m just here not to get a fine,” repeating the famous statement from the former NFL star Marshawn Lynch, before giving a huge smile. and telling everyone – twice – that he was joking.
And later, when Antetokounmpo was asked about his jovial mood in the middle of the position Milwaukee finds himself in, he said it was just his way of dealing with what was going on, rather than letting the gravity of the situation – playing in the NBA Finals for the first time and led 2-0 in the series – weigh on him.
“You know, I personally think, of course, that I know it’s the final. Like tomorrow, we all understand what kind of game we’re getting into,” Antetokounmpo said. “So we know what we have to do. But at the end of the day you have to stay light. You can’t be like, ‘Oh, these are the finals. You have to do it. There’s so much pressure, man. ‘No, like it’s still basketball. It’s easy to say, hard to do, but at the same time, you have to try to approach it that way. It just needs to stay light. You have to keep the ball light. You have to keep the mood light.
“Once we go out there and you see the fans, you know you understand what kind of game you’re in. But me personally, one thing that helps me do is stay light and enjoy it. that I like things, I really like to put my heart in it. If I don’t like it, I just do the gestures. So I just try to enjoy it, appreciate it, try to appreciate that I’m here. We’ve come a long way to be in this position and we have to try to make the most of it. That’s what we did, I guess, in the first round, in the second round, in the round three. That’s what we’re going to do now and I hope this will work in our favor. “
One thing that has remained consistent for Antetokounmpo on Saturday with virtually every other time he has sat in front of the media in recent memory has been to point out the two things he focuses on every time he hits the pitch: have fun and compete. And although he was down in the series, he felt like he was able to achieve both of those things in Milwaukee’s two losses to Phoenix.
For the Bucks, just having Antetokounmpo on the field after his ugly fall in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Atlanta – a game Antetokounmpo once said he initially believed would keep him. on the sidelines for a year, but instead would only cost him a week – is reason for optimism.
But beyond that, Milwaukee has been in this situation before. Just a month ago, the Bucks returned home after losing the first two games of their Eastern Conference semi-final series to the brooklyn nets, only to win four of the remaining five games to advance.
And while this situation isn’t quite analogous to this, it does give the Bucks the muscle memory and confidence to know they’re capable of coming back and winning the title.
“A lot of people thought our season was over,” Bucks guard Khris Middleton said of the team’s position in the Nets series. “We still believed in ourselves. We came back and had a lousy game that we found a way to win.
“Sometimes it won’t be pretty. Sometimes it will be ugly. We just have to find a way to win one game at a time from here on out.”
While part of the Bucks turning this series will begin with Middleton and Jrue Holidays launch in a way that they couldn’t overall in both games at Phoenix, especially in Game 2 in which they shot a total of 12 for 37 from the field, getting Antetokounmpo to play as he made in the contest again will last a long time to bring Milwaukee back into this series.
His Game 1 stat line was impressive – 20 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in 35 minutes – but he only took 11 shots and wasn’t his usual aggressive self in transition. In Game 2, however, Antetokounmpo was transcendent, finishing with 42 points on 15 shots against 22 to go along with 12 rebounds, four assists, one steal and three blocks in 40 minutes. He just got what he wanted all along.
And while Antetokounmpo was unwilling to say anything noticeable had changed about his game from Game 1 to Game 2, he admitted that he felt more comfortable with the midfield game. range he was trying to develop. It was part of his success in Game 2.
“I’m more comfortable,” he said. “I’m not trying to think about it. Now that you’ve said it, I might go and miss them tomorrow because of you. But no, I feel more comfortable. I’m just trying to be aggressive. , to try to go downhill. Sometimes the guys stay in front of me or create a wall that doesn’t allow me to go into the painting. So you have to try to find other ways to be effective, than this either by passing the ball or shooting for the mid-range jump shot or reaching a spot and then shooting it.
“But you just have to find ways to be effective. Sometimes you’re going to do them. Sometimes you’re going to miss them. But you have to keep being aggressive. My mindset is always to try to get down, to go down, to go down. trying to make the right play, the right decision, it’s either a pass or it’s scoring. But like I said sometimes you have to take those shots. You have to let the defense guess. But I feel comfortable, and hopefully going forward, I can feel more comfortable in those shots and be even more efficient. “