The guy goes for 40 & 10 more effortlessly than anyone I’ve ever seen.
Sure, he’s had his troubles with this Boston defense, but Giannis is a player that gets stronger and more dangerous as the series goes on. He wears you down.
Coming into last night’s game, he was averaging 33ppg in the series, but on 43.9% field goal shooting. In Game 5, though, he had a more characteristic Giannis Game: 16-27 from the floor, 40 points and 11 rebounds. Yes, he did have 7 turnovers, but this is still an elite Celtics defense. This was an incredible game by Giannis overall; with blood streaming down his face after catching an inadvertent elbow from his teammate Pat Connaughton, hitting that big three late in the game–it was classic Giannis.
I want to also give credit to Jrue Holliday for coming up huge last night. He was only 9/24 from the field in the game, but he came up with 24 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds and was a team-best +14 in the game. He had a huge three bucket late, and he came up with two huge defensive plays at the end of the game–the block on Smart, and the steal on Smart in the final seconds which prevented Boston from even attempting a game-tying three. Jrue is still only shooting about 34% from the floor, but he’s one of those guys who can impact the game in many ways even when his shoot isn’t going in consistently. It certainly looked like he, rather than Marcus Smart, was the best defensive guard in the league last night.
And Mike Budenholzer: he’s really something. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, when the Celtics were stretching their lead to 14, Bud looked like a deer in the headlights. He looked like he had no idea what was going on. He looked more like a guy who had just gambled away his kid’s college fund in Vegas than an NBA head coach–mouth agape, eyes wide, hair disheveled. And I’m looking at him thinking, “How did this guy win a championship? He looks like he has no idea what’s going on.”
But he and his team pulled off the comeback and got the win.
Milwaukee has now stolen two games in this series that they probably should’ve lost–game 5 and game 3. The Bucks were clearly the better team in Game 1, but that’s about it. Boston probably feels like they should’ve won this series in 5 already, and they very well had the opportunities to do so, but instead they’re now down 3-2 and facing elimination on the road.
This is the difference between a team like the Celtics and a Championship team like Milwaukee. The Bucks are never, ever going to give up. They’re down 14 in the 4th quarter? Doesn’t matter. They’re still coming. You cannot relax on them. You cannot take your foot off the gas. There is no coasting to a win against these guys. I don’t think Boston fully understands that, and I think their youth and inexperience really showed in this game. They simply did not lock it down when victory was in their grasp.
If you’re Boston, you just can’t give away two games in a playoff series. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing–the reigning NBA champs or an 8th seed–you cannot squander two full games in a best-of-seven series. It just kills you.
And that’s why I think Boston is finished. I don’t think Milwaukee is losing Game 6. I think this series is over. The Bucks are not going back to Boston for a Game 7.
But I really want to focus on Giannis here. Because it’s no longer deniable that he’s the best player alive right now. LeBron could still retake the crown if he comes back and leads the Lakers to a title next season, but the crown is undeniably in Giannis’ hands. He’s no longer just a temporary occupant of the throne. He is fully, solidly the best player in the world. I thought after the Finals last year, he had temporarily taken the throne from LeBron, but that he still needed to solidify himself.
I think he’s done that. LeBron’s reign as the best player in the NBA–which began in 2007, in my view–has officially come to an end.
Giannis has the physical dominance aspect to his game that players like, say, KD just don’t have. This is why Giannis is able to be considered the best player in the league: because he can physically dominate you. And the longer the series goes on—the longer each game goes on—the better he gets.
There’s just something different about a guy that bullies you, who can just overpower you and get a bucket at will. It’s different from a guy who is primarily a shooter. It just is.
Eventually he’s getting to the rim at will and his buckets are easier and easier. By the fourth quarter—or by game 4, 5, 6, 7 in a series—nobody wants to defend Giannis. It’s just too difficult, too physically taxing, too painful, and too demoralizing.
It’s also the level of effort and energy he puts forth on a nightly basis. The dude just brings it at all times, and if you don’t match his energy—few guys in the league even can—he will simply flatten you. You have no chance. He goes so hard all the time.
It would be one thing if Giannis just brought it on the offensive end, but he brings it on the defensive end, too. This is like 2013 LeBron, what we’re witnessing here: complete and total dominance on both ends of the floor. Except, Giannis is probably even more physically dominant than LeBron. Giannis has a more physical style of play than just about anybody in NBA history not named Shaquille O’Neal.
He’s getting to that point where he’s the scariest player in the league. Where you just know that he’s lurking out there and if he comes for you, there’s nothing you can do. Everybody else on the court is at his mercy. He might fly out of nowhere and smack the ball out of your hands. It’s up to him–he simply dominates the game like no other player in the league today.
Nobody brings the intensity and the tenacity like he does. The guy is such a competitor. He’s bigger, stronger and better than you and he knows it.
He’s like Godzilla out there, and everyone is just cowering in fear of him.
This is what the best player on earth looks like. He’s dominant on both ends of the floor. He’s bigger, stronger and faster than everybody else. He bullies any and everybody in his path. And there is no way to actually stop him–you just have to try your best to contain him somewhat and make sure he doesn’t go completely bonkers and put up 45 & 15.
This is the difference between Giannis and KD: in the first round, Jayson Tatum did really well against KD to the point where you could even argue he locked KD up for the vast majority of that series. But nobody’s locking Giannis up. There is no “Giannis Stopper” out there in the league. You can slow him down somewhat, but never for an entire series. He will eventually break through.
This, to me, is the hallmark of the Best Player Alive: he’s pretty much unstoppable in a 7 game series. It is almost impossible to beat him 4 out of 7 games.
The Bucks don’t even have Middleton right now and they’re about to win this series in 6!
It’s a wrap. This is Giannis’ league now.