Antetokounmpo, who missed the last two games due to a hyperextension in his left knee, doubt on the eve of the Finals: his presence changes everything
“Giannis? I would also like to know if he plays or not. I was convinced that he would not miss a single match, instead … “. What Khris Middleton says with a smile on his face is what the whole NBA is wondering within hours of game-1 of the Finals: Will Giannis Antetokounmpo be there in his debut in the series for the title?
The fate of these Finals between Suns and Bucks, starting at 3 am on the Italian night between Tuesday and Wednesday, depends a lot on the conditions of the two times mvp. Milwaukee has no longer updated its medical bulletin, and Giannis remains in the infirmary with the hyperextension in his left knee that cost him the last two games of the final in the East against Atlanta. Antetokounmopo was exempted from the media day of the Finals precisely because of the uncertainty about his presence, an apparently negative signal if it were not for the diplomatic and cryptic response of coach Mike Budenholzer on the conditions of his star. “He worked on the pitch, he’s making progress and we’re happy with what he’s doing on the pitch,” the coach said. In the previous two games, Milwaukee resolved the doubt well in advance of the tap-off, letting it know first that Antetokounmpo was unlikely to take the field, then that he was out. However, rumors had leaked from the Bucks that Giannis would be there in the event of Game 7 against Atlanta: instead of playing, Milwaukee had two days without precious games to help Giannis speed up his recovery. But no one asks him to force: “What I’ve been telling him since he got hurt is that he has to think about what’s best for him and his family – reveals Middleton -. He can’t risk a worse injury ”.
While Budenholzer and the medical staff must decide, together with the Greek, if Antetokounmpo is well enough to return to the field, the team-mates prepare to do without him as in the final two games of the series against Atlanta. “We tried to play as a team without him – says Middleton -. When there is often we just give him the ball expecting it to make a difference. When he is missing we have to replace him as a team: we are committed, we have adapted and without him we have played two of the most important matches in our recent history ”. “Giannis attracts a lot of attention, he is a fundamental part of who we are – relaunches Brook Lopez -. With or without him, however, we know that we have to play with the style of the Milwaukee Bucks: team commitment and great defense for 48 minutes ”. Jrue Holiday has a particular recipe: “We can only replace him by remaining aggressive – he says -. Giannis constantly attacks the iron, he gives us so much that it is really hard for us without him. We must continue to be aggressive, to attack as if he were there ”.
The Giannis doubt also concerns the Suns. For the home team in Game 1, it is one thing to have to prepare a match against the two times mvp, it is another thing to do it against the Bucks without him. “They change the way they play if he is on the pitch – says coach Williams -. If not, they attack differently, with all of them sinking in rebounds. When Giannis is around, he and Lopez take up all the space near the basket. When it’s not there, everyone has to bounce. There is one thing in which they are no different: they continue to play as they want, and that is, using the area a lot. In this they have not changed ”. The player most impacted by the presence or absence of the Greek is DeAndre Ayton: “Giannis has an incredible engine, against him you have to compete to the maximum and give everything you have – explains the center, revelation of the Suns in the Playoffs -. I will have to make him feel my presence, respond to his physicality ”. Yes, all the Finals are waiting for the Greek: what will Giannis do?
July 5, 2021 (change July 6, 2021 | 00:55)
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