The Milwaukee Bucks, down 2-1 in the NBA Finals, needed to win at home to avoid going back to Phoenix down 3-1. One would never have guessed the urgency of the situation given how the game started. Both the Bucks and Suns seemed sloppy for most of the first quarter. Over the course of the game, mistakes were made by both teams in what was a beautifully ugly game. Ugly in that there were mistakes. Beautiful in how hard they both grinded down the stretch. At one point, late in the game, it appeared as if the Suns were ready to put the game (and, likely, the series) away for good. Devin Booker drove into the lane and lobbed a pass for DeAndre Ayton that would have been a late-game confidence buster for Milwaukee. However, that is when Giannis Antetokounmpo did this:
Few players have a single great play linked to them. Michael Jordan has “the last shot,” in which he hit a game-winner to take home his sixth NBA Championship. LeBron James has his chase-down block against Golden State as his Finals-defining moment. Regardless of whether or not the Bucks win this title, Giannis has cemented himself among them with his game-altering block.
How Giannis Changed the Course of the Game
With Milwaukee leading by two points and a 1:17 left in the game, Devin Booker, who finished with a game-high 42 points, lobbed a pass to Ayton for what should have been the tying basket. Phoenix had led for most of the game. Had Ayton thundered home the dunk, all the momentum the Bucks had worked so hard to build up would have been ripped away. It would have been an absolute demoralizing play. Even Giannis thought he was going to be dunked on.
Somehow, Giannis went from standing flat on his feet at the free-throw line to blocking a seven-foot center’s dunk above the rim in less than two seconds. Instead of having momentum snatched from them, the Bucks only gained more. Instead of a tie game in their next possession, Milwaukee was able to add on to its lead. Milwaukee had tied the game on previous occasions, but could never get a stop to build a lead. Thanks to Giannis’ impossible block, the Bucks were able to pull away and seal the game. Now, instead of returning to Phoenix down 3-1, they go in tied 2-2, with all the pressure on the Suns.
How Giannis Changed the Course of the Series
As mentioned above, the Bucks now go into Game Five tied 2-2. The series all of a sudden seems much more winnable for the Bucks, who once faced a 0-2 hole in the series. Only four teams have ever come back from 0-2 deficits to win the Finals. The heart and grind exemplified in the block would indicate the Bucks are completely capable of becoming the fifth.
The Milwaukee Bucks now are free of the pressure of facing elimination on the road, at least for now. In addition, they have guaranteed themselves another home game in the series in front of one of the best fan bases in the NBA. If Milwaukee can steal Game Five in Phoenix, they could clinch the Championship at home in Game Six.
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