Game 3 proves it: Bucks more than just Giannis
DETROIT — When an NBA player collects a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double in 28 minutes of a playoff game like the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo did in Saturday night’s 119-103 Game 3 win over the Detroit Pistons, it regularly wouldn’t register as an off-night … but “The Greek Freak” is far from regular.
The MVP candidate didn’t even score his first points until the 10:04 mark in the second quarter with a 16-foot pull-up jumper, and he only managed to put up 13 attempts through the entirety of the contest. Antetokounmpo’s below-average outing helped shed light on what it actually takes to put together an NBA best 60-22 record, and it’s as a collective group from every player on the Bucks’ roster throughout the coaching staff.
“We’re a team that plays together,” head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We try to take what the defense gives us. Guys have opportunities. Guys have a lot of confidence to make plays; it’s not all about Giannis, as amazing and great as he is. If and when we need more from other people … his teammates carry him some nights, carry him some stretches and I think he just loves this group, loves playing with these guys, and loves to see them succeed.”
The Bucks’ backcourt was a key factor in finding momentum in Game 3. Eric Bledsoe had multiple bursts throughout the game — finishing with 19 points — including having his fingerprints on all the Bucks’ first 13-points (seven points, two assists). All-Star Khris Middleton got going a little later and finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Forwards Ersan Illyasova and Nikola Mirotic were a huge spark off the bench. They combined to score 27 points and shot 6-for-9 from long-range. Brook Lopez continued his series success and added another 19 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots.
“Focus has been great this series,” Lopez said. “We just continue to play within ourselves, play with each other have that trust … We’ve been so focused on ourselves and we’re just continuing to do that. It’s all about us, it’s all about the way we come out, we just have to be the team we know we are … we had a great team effort, it shows the kind of players we have on this team. I’m proud of the group as a whole.
”It’s so big-time, they (Detroit) can’t sleep on anyone, our depth is a huge boon for us and huge bonus we have, we just got to keep going to that.”
Antetokounmpo’s growth as a player and a leader has been apparent all year, and he is a far cry from the person that once got ejected for pummeling Mike Dunleavy with a frustration foul while being blown out in a Game 6 against the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the 2015 playoffs. After Game 3’s win over Detroit, he wasted no time praising and recognizing his teammates.
“I’m happy, I think they did a great job just moving the ball, playing fast with pace, knocking down shots, defending well,” said Antetokounmpo regarding his teammates’ success. “It means a lot to me … even when I don’t play my best game, and having the team play such a good game and winning a playoff game on the road, makes me feel really good about this team and it shows me what great character this team has … hey, there’s going to be nights like this and I think my teammates did a great job of picking me up, guys like Brook, Ersan, George Hill, everybody, Pat (Connaughton). I think they came in and stepped up and helped the team get this win tonight.”