Giannis searching for help, can’t find it from Bucks’ perimeter players

Jul 9, 2021, 5:05 PM

Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks rests against the Phoenix Suns during the second h...

Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks rests against the Phoenix Suns during the second half in Game One of the NBA Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena on July 06, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

There’s no doubt that Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is virtually impossible to guard when he is in a groove.

That was the case Thursday night when Antetokounmpo finished with 42 points, 12 rebounds and four assists while shooting 15-of-22 from the field and 11-of-18 from the charity stripe in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Despite his dominant performance, the Bucks are now down 2-0 for the second time in the playoffs after their 118-108 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

It was the same thing we’ve seen multiple times throughout these playoffs — Milwaukee’s perimeter players did not step up.

All-Defensive Team point guard Jrue Holiday (17) and All-Star forward Khris Middleton (11) looked anything but themselves, as they scored a total of 28 points and shot a combined 12-of-37 (32%) from the field.

“I think we had a lot of open shots that we didn’t make,” Holiday said postgame.

“I know me personally, there were a couple layups there that I usually make that kind of rimmed in and out. Had some good looks.”

Even with a poor shooting performance, there’s hope for Milwaukee.

Holiday was much more aggressive on the offensive end. He put up 11 shots in the first quarter after shooting only a total of 14 in Game 1.

“I think I did a good job of being aggressive, especially from the start. We got a quick lead early, but again, they started to go dry there a little bit,” Holiday said.

“I’ll continue to be aggressive. It’s the only thing I really can do is put pressure on the rim and try to spread out for threes.”

Through two games of the Finals, Holiday has shot a mere 31% from the field and 14% from behind the arc.

Antetokounmpo wants his point guard to continue being assertive offensively, but not let Holiday’s shooting woes affect him mentally.

“No matter what’s going on, you’ve got to stay aggressive and you cannot get in your feelings,” Antetokounmpo said.

“It’s hard not to. You know, NBA Finals, 20,000 people booing you and all that, it’s kind of hard.”

As for Middleton, Thursday’s game was his worst scoring performance of these playoffs thus far. This came after a solid 29-point outing in Game 1, shooting 5-12 from long-range.

He said the game plan for the Bucks going forward is to be better collectively on both ends of the floor.

“Knocking down some shots would make life a lot better for us,” Middleton said.

“But also making things tougher. The three-point line like I said before, containing CP and Book on those pick-and-roll plays and just not allowing them to get to their spots so easily.”

If Milwaukee wants to win its second NBA championship, it needs more than just Antetokounmpo’s dominance.

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