The Milwaukee Bucks endured another gut punch on Thursday with a 118-108 loss to the Phoenix Suns. Giannis Antetokounmpo delivered an all-time Finals performance in Game Two with 42 points and 12 rebounds. Antetokounmpo scored 20 of his 42 points in the third quarter and is the only player since Michael Jordan to score 20 points in a quarter in a Finals game.
Unfortunately for Milwaukee, his legendary performance wasn’t enough to tie the series. Antetokounmpo didn’t get enough help from his teammates on the offensive end. Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton continued their struggles in the playoffs, combining 12-37 from the floor.
Milwaukee’s chances are now looking slim. They were already underdogs to begin the series, but now with their 0-2 deficit, it seems incredibly unlikely that the Bucks can make a comeback. However, Milwaukee shouldn’t be counted out yet.
The Bucks have been in this situation before. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Milwaukee got embarrassed in their first two games against the Brooklyn Nets, losing by a combined 47 points in Games One and Two. Yet, Khris Middleton stepped up averaged 28 points per game the rest of the series to help squeak out the victory. Middleton hasn’t been his all-star self so far in the Finals.
The Brooklyn series gives some optimism to the Bucks, knowing they’re capable of coming back from a 0-2 deficit.
“We’re competitors,” Bucks guard Pat Connaughton stated. “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t believe. We have a resilient group in that locker room. We have a group that’s been through a lot. We’ve been through adversity this year. The one thing that’s remained consistent is we’ve fought through it together.”
So are the Bucks doomed after losing Games One and Two? Short answer: no. They’ve proven that they know how to stay collected when trailing in the Playoffs. However, the Bucks are getting nowhere if Holiday and Middleton continue their substandard play.
Holiday was much more aggressive in Game Two, unlike Game One. He attacked the basket and took over 20 shots for the third time in seven games. Though, he never found a rhythm until the Fourth Quarter. Missing open left-handed layups and had great looks from beyond the three-point arc, nothing went Holiday’s way on Thursday.
With Middleton, there’s no telling if he’s going to have a decent shooting night or not. He shot 5-16 (31.3%) in Game Two and 1-3 in the Fourth Quarter. His playoff inconsistencies constantly hurt the Bucks, especially in crunch time. Both Jrue and Khris have to step up if the Bucks hope to get back in the series. It can’t just be Antetokounmpo.
With Giannis on the court so far this series, Milwaukee is a +4 in just over 75 minutes. But, in his 20 minutes off the court, the Bucks are -27. His presence on the court is clearly necessary, but they can’t rely on him to carry the team for 48 minutes, barring his knee injury. Milwaukee’s role players have won without Giannis, as they’ve shown after his injury against Atlanta; they have to be able to do it when he’s off the court as well.
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