AP Photo/Adam Hunger
Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t throwing in the towel after his team’s 125-86 defeat to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday.
The two-time MVP told reporters how he prefers to remain even-keeled and not overreact to good or bad performances:
“I don’t get too high, I don’t get too low. After the Miami series, we were up 4-0, and coming to this series, I wasn’t high. Now that we’re down 2-0, I’m not low. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing, keep trusting my work, keep trusting my teammates, keep believing in the team, keep believing in the habits we’ve built all year, and hopefully in Game 3 we get a win.”
The Nets’ position isn’t all that dissimilar from the one the Bucks occupied in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals.
Milwaukee beat the Toronto Raptors by 22 points in Game 2 to take a 2-0 series lead. The path to the NBA Finals looked clear, except the Raptors reeled off four straight wins en route to a title.
But these aren’t parallel scenarios. Toronto rode Kawhi Leonard’s singular brilliance, and head coach Nick Nurse devised a defensive strategy to mitigate Antetokounmpo’s impact.
Antetokounmpo isn’t the same kind of scorer as Leonard, who shot 37.1 percent from three-point range during the 2019 postseason. The combined presence of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving—and possibly James Harden if he gets back from his hamstring injury—also make it difficult for head coach Mike Budenholzer to zero in on stopping just one star.
Along the same lines, Budenholzer can’t flip a switch and make Khris Middleton perform better. Middleton has 30 points on 13-of-33 shooting through two games, and that’s simply not good enough for a player who’s making $33 million.
Brian Mahoney @briancmahoney
Among Bucks problems: Bruce Brown is only starting because James Harden is hurt and right now nobody who ever watched basketball would take Khris Middleton over him.
Milwaukee has two days to regroup for Game 3, which will allow Budenholzer and his staff with some time to make whatever adjustments they can.
Antetokounmpo may not be panicking now, but the Bucks will be a five-alarm fire if they fall behind 3-0.