NBA Finals: How Giannis Antetokounmpo powered Bucks to Game 3 win against Phoenix SunsJuly 14, 2021
After losing Game 1 and 2 on the road, the Milwaukee Bucks breathed life into the NBA Finals by winning the first of two home games 120-100 on the back of a 41-point, 13-rebound performance by Giannis Antetokounmpo, against the Phoenix Suns yesterday.
Best player in the series
This was the first time in this series where Antetokounmpo put up a 40/10/5 performance. Only Shaquille O’Neal (2x), LeBron James (5x), Kevin Durant and Jimmy Butler have put those numbers up in the NBA Finals before.
Antetokounmpo’s entry into the exclusive club was well on its way after his Game 2 performance, which was also a 40-point double-double. What is remarkable is that the Greek Freak is living up to his name. Two 40-point performances, a week removed from a hyper-extended knee is extraordinary in itself, but the real contribution that Antetokounmpo is making is inside and on the glass. Milwaukee was 54-40 against the Suns in Game 3 when it came to points in the paint. Not only is Antetokounmpo outscoring the Suns, he is going on the other end of the court and making sure that they don’t score as well.
A strapping centre, the seven-footer, when missing the occasional shot, was efficient in picking up an offensive rebound. Both Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis, two of Milwaukee’s centres, collected eight offensive rebounds between them.
Team defence clicks
The offensive rebounds were just one part of Milwaukee’s defence against the Suns yesterday. This series was always going to hinge on how Antetokounmpo’s support cast would perform. After two low-scoring starts for the Bucks, they finally won their first NBA Finals game in 47 years through some concerted defensive effort.
The Bucks defence restricted Devin Booker to only 10 points on 3-14 shooting in Game 3. Mikal Bridges, who scored 27 in Game 2, turned up with a mere 4 points yesterday. Phoenix, who shot a record 50% from three-point range on 40 attempts, took nine lesser shots from long distance and made only 9 of them.
Jrue Holiday NBA playoffs were going on a nightmare run but the former New Orleans Pelican point-guard redeemed himself with a 21-point game on 8-14 shooting, while making half of his 10 three-point attempts.
Holiday’s impact was what the Bucks were missing the most. His first ever games in an NBA Final came minus the scoring impact that Milwaukee needed. But both him and Khris Middleton combined for 39 points in Game 3. While still not as much as both players are capable of, it was enough to compliment the 40-point game that Antetokounmpo had.
Foul trouble for Suns
A major reason the Suns couldn’t limit Antetokounmpo’s scoring or score more points in the paint was because of DeAndre Ayton being in foul trouble. The 2018 No 1 draft pick was always going to be a defensive liability in this series, but after four fouls before the second quarter ended, Suns coach Monty Williams was forced to bench Ayton.
What didn’t help the Suns further was that their backup for Ayton in Dario Saric was injured and thus Williams had to play 14 minutes with Frank Kaminsky – who allowed the Suns to be outscored by 12 points in that period.
The calling card for the Suns in this series has always been Devin Booker and Chris Paul. In a league-oriented for guards, the two are present in the Suns line-up for the sole purpose of being ball-handlers who can score at will.
Yet in Game 3, both went 2-11 from three-point range and were a combined 29 points. The only consolation that the Suns can take away is that this was likely an off night for their guard-duo and that both Bookers and Paul will have a better shooting hand in Game 4.