“The Greek Freak” performed a host of landmark games to live up to his stature as the game’s most gifted player. The 6-foot-11-inch flying machine climbed to the edge for the dunks and slammed a grip lobs on the way to 34 points on 14 of 26 shots Sunday as the Bucks knocked down the Nets 107-96 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
He attacked the rim in transition and didn’t settle for his finicky 3-point shot. (He made his first before ringing the next four.)
In his highlight, Antetokounmpo cut the baseline and received a rebound pass from Jrue Holiday. Antetokounmpo stood up and dove for Blake Griffin, flexing his muscles towards the crowd.
But with all of that, the biggest play of the game he was in came when Antetokounmpo moved to Kyrie Irving with the Nets goalie already in the air, landing the ball in it.
Irving landed on Antetokounmpo’s foot, his ankle twisting horribly. Irving fell to the ground, grimaced, and hammered the hardwood. Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, ran up the field, with play continuing before the whistle blew and Irving left the game for good. Apparently in a walking boot after the game, Irving’s return to the series is uncertain.
Antetokounmpo was not called up for a foul, but ABC’s Jalen Rose has said the NBA should retroactively foul him for not coming out from under Irving – a cardinal NBA sin.
If Irving is out for the rest of the series and the Bucks win, his injury will be a turning point in history. Antetokounmpo was involved in another landmark New York basketball event in 2018, when Kristaps Porzingis dove on Antetokounmpo and awkwardly landed, tearing his ACL and never playing another game for the Knicks.
Because a fire alarm went off on the Fiserv forum after the contest, the Bucks superstar was not available for comment on Zoom.
In his interview with ABC after the game, Antetokounmpo said of the play: “I don’t know – I thought he was shot in the groin first. He returned to the locker room. They said it was a sprained ankle. I hope he will be back for Game 5, but we have to keep focusing on ourselves.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said he didn’t know how Irving got injured.
“I haven’t seen the movie,” he said. “I have no idea what happened to Kyrie’s injury. I think I know it’s a crooked ankle. “
When asked if he thinks Antetokounmpo undermined Irving, Nets center Jeff Green replied, “I’m not going to sit here and say he did. [that] whatever happens, it’s done on purpose. I think it’s just something that happens throughout basketball. “
If Antetokounmpo still has the outside yelps, it was not so obvious on Sunday. That’s because he shot less over the 3-point tape. He went from 1 for 5 to 3 after going 1 for 8 on Friday to continue his disastrous 3-point shot in these playoffs.
He shoots 13% from beyond the arc in the playoffs after hitting 30% in the regular season.
“Giannis set the tone,” Budenholzer said. “Giannis has had two good games since we came home. I think he participates in the movement of the ball whether he initiates it or ends it, he just has to keep making good decisions. “
He had three assists on Sunday, but could have more as he often flew in the lane and backs up to throw open shots for the others.
“Giannis is Giannis,” Bucks swingman Pat Connaughton said. “I can say, ‘Beast.’ I can say “MVP”. I can say a lot of things. But it’s Giannis. As his knowledge has continued to develop over the past few years, what I have seen there are many ways for him to reach the basket and understanding how the defenses have played him is the biggest step forward I have ever seen. saw him do it. Several times he made the right pass and we failed to reverse the shots for him. “
Antetokounmpo was a disaster in Game 2, scoring 18 points and not making any shots outside of the paint. In Game 3, he improved to 33 points, but was a hideous 1-for-8 from 3 points and couldn’t knock down free throws (4-for-9), shooting an overhead ball and being flagged for a 10 second row violation.
On Sunday, he came out faster on his free throws but still didn’t do enough, passing 5 for 10. He still hasn’t come out of the woods. Now desperate and exhausted, the Nets have not employed a strategy to send Antetokounmpo over online. Not yet.