BOSTON – Now it is two of three games, the best team wins. Or is he the best player?
It is very likely the semifinals of the conference series between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks will decide what’s left of Jason Tatum and Giannis Antetokounmp.
This is not disrespect to Al Horford, who is suddenly 35 goes to 25. Or Jrue Holiday, who was a great ball distributor and ball bouncer. Or Jaylen Brown, so persistent for most of this series. Or anyone else who could emerge with great effort from now until whenever the last buzzer is heard on this intense best of the seven.
This is because these close playoff games are usually saved by the player who is supposed to save. And who is more qualified than Giannis, the league’s most successful player in the last four years, and Tatum, one of the league’s best players in the last four months?
Therefore, this series, tied 2-2, will be worth watching the next few nights. With a margin of error and a window that is starting to close for both teams, the Celtics and Bucks will instinctively go to their comfort zones, their franchise guys, their safety blankets. You watch where the ball falls if the remaining games come down to the last two minutes. You watch who will start hiding and who will demand.
Here’s a tip: Giannis and Tatum will do the latter.
So far, they have gone through different paths in this series. Tatum had a harder time through the first three games, although they recovered nicely in the second half of the fourth game and brought victory to Boston with a few timely balls and accepted the challenge of keeping Giannis straight on several occasions. Meanwhile: Giannis has dazzling numbers that explain his influence, and he dominated the moves, but disappeared in a moment of truth in Game 4 and his free-throw shooting is vague.
So what can we expect from each of them? Here’s a crystal ball.
What to expect from Giannis Antetokounmpa
The Celtics throw different defenders in their own way, each bringing their own preferences and specialties to give Giannis a different look and make him work. Grant Williams is built low to the ground, perhaps physically the strongest among the Giannis Stoppers, and adds intensity – he is not afraid. Horford lacks lateral speed, but has the height and wit to cause problems (Giannis shoots 35.8% when stored from him). And of course, there’s the new Kia defensive player of the year, Marcus Smart, who is so cunning and proud even though he surrenders five inches.
All of them make it most difficult for Giannis, who averages 32 points, but on a rather tame (for him) 43.9% of shots.
But they also need to be aware of the trial, and sometimes fall on the wrong side of the whistle when Giannis is caught and charged with paint. Plus, even Giannis can’t drive his luck out in these situations, and in any case, he’s shooting 60% off the line in this series. So it really becomes a game of chess and a guessing game – how much contact will the referees allow?
Luckily for the Bucks, Giannis is a better passer than ever and is ready to spot an open man. However, if Pat Connaughton and Wesley Matthews and Grayson Allen don’t hit those shots – and they were in a row in this series – Giannis holds the ball, as he did in Game 4 when he scored 32 shots with just five assists. It really comes down to trust in these situations; do his teammates deserve his trust?
Giannis tied Kareem for a maximum of 30 points in Bucks’ playoff history with 30.
– Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) May 10, 2022
Giannis is, as usual, striking from the other side. He averages 13 rebounds and follows the edge in defensive position. All in all, Giannis is giving convincing signs that it is the best player in this playoff, and the Bucks are hoping that will mean they are the best team – or at least have enough to advance to the second round.
Well, it could depend on what a certain Boston player will do to counter that idea.
What to expect from Jason Tatum
Much like Giannis, Tatum was the focus of the second team’s defense, and in this case, the Bucks are bringing it in better than most. Ever since Brook Lopez returned from back surgery, Milwaukee has raised it. The Bucks are returning to frustrating opponents after a missed early season, leading the rest of the NBA league in defensive rating.
Tatum in particular felt the heat, and revealed a few games in this series, taking much of his hindrance to the trial. After ignition Nets by 29.5 points and beating Kevin Durant in the previous round, Tatum is at 22.5 and gives only 38.3% of his shots against Milwaukee.
But it’s hard to keep the deadly scorer for long, and Tatum responded strongly to Monday’s win, tying with Horford with 30 points. Did he finally understand the code? Maybe. The next two (or three) games will say for sure, and if Tatum returns to attacking and finishing and dropping the ball deep – in other words, providing various shots from a range that even Giannis can’t duplicate – the Bucks could be in trouble.
cold-blooded 🥶 pic.twitter.com/jhWRiCdz1G
– Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 10, 2022
“I played horribly in the 3rd game and we almost had a chance to win, and that was really the hardest part, just knowing that,” Tatum said. “So I was very eager to come back and be ready to play, whether I scored a goal or not. I just go out and play better at both ends of the floor and do what I can. ”
The Bucks throw Matthews (mostly, with some success) and Giannis and Holiday into Tatum and force him to deal with those different looks and body types. For the most part, this strategy worked, but again, Tatum is too talented a player to withstand prolonged falls in the shot.
Therefore, it becomes a question of who can surpass whom between the two biggest stars of this series. It makes basketball breathtaking, a lot of back and forth hints and gives us a chance to see how they react under intensity, especially now that the stakes are getting higher with each game from here.
Giannis is a player who has been more tested in combat since he has already won the championship, dropped about 50 in the deciding game for the title, and has done everything an NBA player can do in the last few years. In addition to injury, Giannis will be very visible and vivid in the remaining games of this series, where he must win at least once in Boston.
“No one said it would be easy, and at the end of the day we know what the deal is now,” Antetokounmpo said. “We have to go to Boston; we have to play good basketball. But now given how our body feels and what we feel in our mind and all that, who really cares? Nobody cares. We know what it’s about. “
However, Tatum seems to be equally hungry, and there may be more to prove. He grows into a superstar and realizes that the only way he can achieve his arrival at that level is to beat someone who is already at that level.
The Celtics against the Bucks are on their way to a frantic finale and most likely fun and close. This series begs for a hero, and the most likely candidates are the two you would expect.
So who is it: Giannis or Tatum? He wants to know this semifinal.
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