Together with his staff’s season on the road, Milwaukee Bucks ahead Giannis Antetokounmpo entered Sport 6 of the Japanese Convention finals with a transparent aim in thoughts: to assault each probability he may.
After a lot of this collection has been dominated by chatter about his wayward leap shot, Antetokounmpo ensured Milwaukee would survive and pressure a Sport 7 on Saturday evening in Brooklyn by relentlessly forcing his solution to the rim.
The consequence? Milwaukee cruised to a 104-89 victory, whereas Antetokounmpo completed with 30 factors, 17 rebounds and three assists in 41 minutes — all whereas not taking a single 3-point shot.
“That was simply the way it went,” Antetokounmpo mentioned. “I did not shoot a 3 tonight, however I am simply attempting to be aggressive. Get downhill, make the best play, I feel there was perhaps one or two performs I used to be open on the 3-point line and perhaps may have shot it.
“However what I do know is that I benefit from the sport after I’m aggressive, and I can get downhill and I can get my teammates concerned, and after I play to my strengths. That is after I benefit from the sport essentially the most, and that is what I attempt to do.”
It is actually what he did in Sport 6 — and, for the Bucks, with nice outcomes. Of Antetokounmpo’s 12 area targets Thursday evening, 11 got here within the paint, and 10 have been within the restricted space, in keeping with information from ESPN Stats & Data. His common area aim distance of 5.6 ft was his lowest of this postseason.
“Giannis coming into the sport was in an excellent place,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer mentioned. “Simply get him the place he is attacking and creating for his teammates, creating for himself. He got here in immediately in an excellent place, and we have got to remain there going into Sport 7.”
Antetokounmpo’s mindset was indicative of the strategy the Bucks collectively delivered to this elimination sport. Budenholzer leaned closely on his stars, primarily taking part in a six-man rotation till each groups emptied their benches for the ultimate couple of minutes. Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton (38 factors, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals) and Jrue Holiday (21 factors, eight rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals) mixed to equal Brooklyn’s 89 factors by themselves. Milwaukee dominated in transition, outscoring Brooklyn 26-4 in fast-break factors, and the Bucks shot twice as many free throws because the Nets.
Add all of it up, and the Bucks have been in a position to proceed the pattern of each groups successful their residence video games on this collection, making certain it could have a winner-take-all showdown at Barclays Heart 48 hours later.
“We did not appear to be we had a ton of power all evening,” Nets coach Steve Nash mentioned. “I feel we needed it. We simply could not discover it. And when you’ll be able to’t discover that rhythm, it makes it even more durable, and so it is sort of chicken-and-the-egg. Is the rhythm as a result of you do not have the power, or is it compounded as a result of you do not have a rhythm?
“It was simply not our greatest sport. We did not play properly. … It is now about how we reply.”
The Bucks set the tone for the way the sport would go proper from the opening tip. Antetokounmpo opened the sport with a layup to offer Milwaukee a lead it could by no means relinquish in claiming a wire-to-wire victory. He saved on attacking, scoring seven factors as a part of an 18-5 run that gave Milwaukee an instantaneous cushion and helped wipe away a few of the tough recollections from Brooklyn’s comeback from a 16-point deficit to assert Sport 5.
Brooklyn periodically made pushes to get again into the sport, and solely in these closing moments when each benches emptied did the sport really feel really over, particularly given the Nets had Kevin Durant at their disposal.
However whereas Durant nonetheless led Brooklyn with 32 factors Thursday evening, it took him 30 pictures to do it, a far cry from the scintillating 49 factors on 16-for-23 capturing he put up for the Nets of their beautiful Sport 5 victory.
“I wasn’t even attempting to duplicate [Game 5],” Durant mentioned. “I used to be simply attempting to go on the market and play every possession. I am not attempting to be a hero on the market. I do know I am unable to win a basketball sport on my own, so I simply attempt to play the best means, take the pictures which might be there. Just a few of them I felt like I rushed simply attempting to get us again into the move and swap the momentum a little bit bit, however for essentially the most half I believed I used to be aggressive and put strain on the protection.
“I’ve gotta preserve the ball in my palms a little bit bit extra, however being aggressive is all the time optimistic for us, particularly after I’m going downhill. I attempt to not duplicate large nights like that. Simply attempting to let the sport move and tonight wasn’t our evening.”
Whereas a number of Bucks took their turns attempting to sluggish the all-world ahead down, it was P.J. Tucker who as soon as once more drew the first task. And whereas he completed with solely three factors on 1-for-6 capturing, Tucker was a game-high plus-30, doing each a wonderful job giving Durant all he may deal with whereas additionally making a number of essential hustle performs to increase possessions.
“Hear, Kevin Durant is perhaps the very best scorer of our era,” Tucker mentioned. “He is gonna rating the ball quite a bit. Everyone is aware of that. I do not know why folks act like that is a shock. He is a tall activity for anyone. I do not suppose anyone can shut him down.
“However what you are able to do is attempt to make him work.”
Past Durant’s heroics, the opposite story from Sport 5 was James Harden‘s stunning return from the hamstring damage he suffered initially of Sport 1. And whereas he nonetheless did not appear to be the participant he sometimes is, he was extra concerned and efficient in Sport 6, scoring 16 factors, together with 14 within the first half, to go together with 5 rebounds, seven assists and 4 steals in 40 minutes.
“It is not even about rust,” Harden mentioned. “It is about with the ability to transfer, and I feel as I’m going day-to-day, [I] proceed to get higher.
“The final sport, Sport 5, was the primary day that I did any motion like that since I received harm, so tonight was no totally different, you already know? I am on the market to do no matter it takes to win. I’ve received to be higher on each ends of the ball, which I might be in Sport 7.”
Milwaukee’s aim coming into Thursday evening was to easily make it possible for Sport 7 passed off. And, after the frustration the Bucks felt after letting Sport 5 slip away, Antetokounmpo made certain he set the tone and led his staff into Saturday’s showdown in Brooklyn.
Now that the Bucks have made it that far, he mentioned, they’re going to be able to benefit from the chance.
“We knew what sort of sport this was, and there was just one possibility: Win the sport,” Antetokounmpo mentioned. “We knew if we did not win the sport, our season can be over, and we have talked about it a number of occasions within the locker room among the many guys that it is not going to be straightforward.
“As I’ve mentioned all 12 months lengthy, we’re constructed for this second. Easy as that. Nobody mentioned it was going to be straightforward. It is likely to be laborious. However we’re able to doing it. So all people had a fantastic mindset, got here to play, got here to compete, and hopefully we are able to do this in Sport 7.”