Antetokounmpo nears legendary status after putting Bucks on the brink of title


What a basketball game, what a finish, what a series.

Unless you have a deep connection to the Milwaukee Bucks, the only reasonable position as a basketball fan is to want the NBA Finals to span all seven games.

The Phoenix Suns will have to dig deep to get there as they will head to Milwaukee for Game 6, led 3-2 in the series after losing 123-119 on Saturday in a game that had more twists than a bad Netflix series.

Right after Giannis Antetokounmpo missed a pair of critical free throws that saw the Suns complete an eight-second comeback with 2:23 left, Jrue Holiday pulled the ball out of Devin Booker and fed the two-time MVP for a spectacular alley. -oop which put the Bucks to three with 13 seconds left. Antetokounmpo missed another free throw – he was 4 of 11 on the night from the line, although he had 32 points and nine rebounds – but in this case he returned his own miss to Khris Middleton, who knocked down the following. free throw to freeze it. The Suns led by 16 after the first quarter only to see the Bucks take a 13th lead in the third quarter before the drama of the fourth quarter.

More please.

Here are the biggest takeaways after Game 5:

Who has more at stake Giannis or Paul?

Here’s a funny argument because what has been a competitive and entertaining final comes down to the last one or two: Which superstar has the most stakes in the series’ outcome?

I think the gut reaction is to say Chris Paul. The 36-year-old Suns star has finally reached the final in his 16th season, and knows better than anyone how thin the line is between success and failure in the playoffs, and just how big those opportunities are. But Paul’s legacy is largely secure: he’s one of the best playmakers of all time and winning a title at this point in his career with a team that hadn’t made the playoffs for a while. decade will only confirm what most people already think. Losing in the final after the way he’s performed so far won’t change much.

By contrast, at 26, the Bucks’ Antetokounmpo would appear to have a decade to win a championship, two or three. But here’s why Antetokounmpo might have more to lose. A Bucks win would instantly grant legend status to the two-time MVP. Bringing a championship to a low-glitter market like Milwaukee is a feat in itself – the Bucks haven’t won the NBA title since 1971, when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was still known publicly as Lew Alcindor. Moreover, Antetokounmpo would join one of the rarest clubs in the NBA – that of the savior of the franchise. Few players have so completely changed the orientations of the organizations that drafted them. That’s what Michael Jordan did by raising the Chicago Bulls to titles, and Dirk Nowitzki with the Dallas Mavericks and Tim Duncan with the San Antonio Spurs. There are other examples, but you get the point: elevating the team that drafted you from equal run status to a championship is the ultimate NBA flex. If Antetokounmpo can succeed, he will be a grown man. He may have more chances, but as Paul might tell him, nothing is guaranteed. Antetokounmpo has two chances of not getting there.

Holiday justifies Bucks’ investment in him

What a post-season roller coaster for Jrue Holiday. The Bucks guard was both a critical part of Milwaukee’s success and a reason for some of their struggles – both were on display in Game 4 as Holiday shot just 4 of 20 off the ground, but the defense was a big reason for Paul’s Struggles for Phoenix. Much of Paul’s 15 turnovers in Game 2-4 were due to Holiday’s strength and irritability. But in Game 5, Holiday brought it all in, an almost perfect performance from both sides as he finished with 27 points, 13 assists and three steals while making life difficult for Paul. It was the kind of performance the Bucks envisioned when they traded Eric Bledsoe, George Hill and three first-round picks for Holiday, then signed him for a four-year, $ 134 million contract extension at the eve of the playoffs. It’s the kind of performance that will surpass any of his weakest moments if the Bucks win the title. His flight to Devin Booker and his pass to Antetokounmpo for the alley-oop will forever live on the highlights.

Booker keeps making a name for himself

If the playoffs are where you make a name for yourself, it’s hard to imagine a player who benefited more than Booker. He was brilliant again in Game 5 as he finished with 40 points to complete his 42-point explosion in Game 4, which was his answer to a 10-point absence in Game 3. Nobody has. scored more points in his first qualifying round. run in NBA history. No one has passed their reputation so efficiently and quickly from a guy who got big numbers on a bad team to a cash player. His slippery layup in front of Antetokounmpo with 2:03 to go reduced the Bucks’ lead to six. Booker nearly made a critical flight over Middleton an instant later, but the ball went out of bounds upon examination. He then stepped up and hit a three on Holiday with 1:24 to reduce the Bucks’ lead to three. It was clutch basketball. Booker’s reputation grew dramatically during the Suns’ run. If he can back them 3-2, he can become a legend.

Tale of the Band

There is no end to the data available to analyze NBA games now – for fans, media, and teams. Used well, numbers can provide a deeper understanding of not just any individual game, but the sport itself. That’s not all – the largely unrecognized importance of average scoring is an example of how both sides of the so-called “data division” can go wrong at the same time; or the same facts may mean different things to different people – but ignore any statistics or advanced data at your own risk.

Sometimes, however, things are very, very simple. For example: in Game 4, the Bucks won because they took so many more hits than the Suns. The Suns shot an impressive 51.3 percent from the floor against the Bucks – the second-highest Milwaukee has made it to the playoffs so far – while keeping their opponent just 40.2 percent off the floor. It’s hard to lose a game under these circumstances. The difference, quite simply, was that Milwaukee took a lot more shots than Phoenix – 19 to be precise – dominating the offensive glass and forcing the Suns to 17 turnovers. No deep analysis is required: if you get a 17-5 rebound on the offensive glass and also do 12 more turnovers, it’s a hole that’s hard to get out of. In Game 5, the shot totals were identical – 87 each – and the shot was exceptional with the Bucks shooting 57% and the Suns knocking down 55%. Turnovers and offensive rebounds were comparable. The difference? Milwaukee had two more shots, including a triple. It was so close.

Crowder, Connaughton step up

It is rare that a playoff series does not rely on the contributions of the actors. The teams intend to take the ball away from opposing stars and few superstars can defeat them completely on their own.

In recent years, the Suns’ Jae Crowder has offered that kind of value to several teams. He was a key contributor to the Boston Celtics team that made the playoffs in each of its three seasons, including the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017. He also made the playoffs three years. back-to-back with Utah Jazz, and last season was a big reason. The Miami Heat fought off the Bucks in five games as he shot 43 percent from depths in 10 attempts per game, putting the “3” in his 3-and-D job description.

In the first quarter of Game 5, Crowder came away with eight quick points on three shots. The Suns led 16 in what initially looked like a smashing victory for Phoenix.

The game changed quickly, of course, and one of the main reasons the Bucks’ own player was noticed the most often: Pat Connaughton, who finished with 14 points on six shots and was plus-10 on the night. . Crowder calmed down after his quick start and didn’t score in the second half.

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