The time is now for Giannis and Bucks
The time is right. The table is set and all looks rosy for the Milwaukee Bucks and their superstar leader Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, they’ve been here before. They’ve lost from this position before too. They were in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019 where they were favourites to take the series. Kawhi Leonard grabbed the games by the horns against the Bucks and led the Toronto Raptors past them and then onto a championship victory. That was heart-breaking for Giannis. The Bucks were disappointing in last season’s bubble as well when they were beaten 4-1 by the Miami Heat. More disappointment for the two-time league MVP. Now, this is his chance to change all of that. To put in place a different narrative.
Giannis has showed a level of maturity when it’s been called for in recent weeks. He isn’t trying to be somebody he isn’t and when he focuses on the task at hand and also on his particular skillset, he is almost unstoppable.
The Atlanta Hawks have been hugely impressive during this run to the Conference Finals as they’ve swept aside more fancied opponents with a real swagger, dispatching the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers. Trae Young has carried this team on his back and he was doing just that again against the Bucks in Game 3 before he stepped on a ref’s foot and twisted his ankle. His injury gives the Bucks even more of an edge than just being up 2-1 in the series. Without Young this Hawks team faces true adversity. If the Bucks win Game 4 in Atlanta then the writing might just be on the wall and a first NBA Finals appearance would be theirs.
This would mean so much to Giannis, the Nigerian-Greek phenomenon has showed that he is one-of-a-kind in the league. He might not be Kevin Durant who can shoot from just about anywhere. He hasn’t just stuck to forcing terrible 3-point attempts as he used to in an attempt to prove he is as good as people say he is. Giannis doesn’t have the shooting ability that has been the hallmark of NBA greatness, but what he does have is a very unique body and a control over it that is almost superhuman. When Giannis is driving to the hoop, he can dunk all over you, euro step around you, reach over your head to score. His length and athleticism are remarkable. Few teams have an answer or him. He’s also showed an ability to learn from past mistakes. Over the years he had been bated by opposing teams into taking ill-advised long-range shots, into continually trying to do everything himself that would lead to charging fouls. He has been cajoled and conned into fouling opponents early in games by trying to block every shot that came his way. Now he listens, he reads the situation, he trusts his teammates more. He is a leader. The best leaders get their team involved and defer to their squad mates when the situation calls for it. They also lead from the front and take on the tasks that they are best suited for.
Giannis is a two-time MVP, a five-time All-Star, a Defensive Player of the year award winner a Most Improved Player of the Year award winner. He has countless personal accolades that he truly deserves. The only thing he is missing from that list is a championship trophy. This could and indeed should be his chance to get his hands on one. If he can stay clear of calamity and he sticks to his strengths then no one will stop him.