It’s not about winning the series. This postseason is all about experience and the growth that comes from it for Giannis Antetokounmpo.
All season long, the rallying cry for those who have supported the Bucks getting into the postseason was playoff experience for Antetokounmpo and that shouldn’t change with his struggles against the Bulls.
Last week, Ethan Skolnick wrote a wonderful piece on the seven series that LeBron James has lost in his career and how each loss changed him as a player. Now, to be clear, Antetokounmpo is not the same player as James, but many have raved about his work ethic and dedication in the same way some have talked about James.
“They’re all different,” James said. “But I think every last playoff series for me is a learning experience, especially in my younger days…If I don’t play well in a series, I critique that whole series and I look what I was doing, what I could have done. And if there’s something that I couldn’t do well in that series, I work on it all summer.”
This quote is the exact reason people shouldn’t be concerned with Antetokounmpo’s postseason struggles. Truly great players are driven by their previous failings, not consumed by them.
After this postseason, Antetokounmpo will be just one of just 37 players to ever play in 100 playoff minutes by the age of 21. He’ll also be just the 25th player to ever start in three or more playoff games at that age. No matter how badly you may think his postseason has gone, the experience has value.
Let’s look at plays in which Antetokounmpo has struggled, but that also showcase his great potential.
The Bucks have found a new set they like to use to get Antetokounmpo involved throughout the game. The play calls for a Bucks guard to set a ball screen for Antetokounmpo to get to the middle of the floor, but, as a way to take advantage of the Bulls scheme, Antetokounmpo rejects the screen and goes to the basket.
During the season, the Bucks used Antetokounmpo as the ball handler in pick and roll situations just 60 times, less than once per game, which makes the use of this set in the playoffs both surprising and exciting. As the clip shows, Antetokoumpo still needs to work on his pace, strength, and balance. It also shows the need for him to get more creative around the rim and possibly strengthen his off-hand finishing.
Though matching up with the Bulls doesn’t present a good opportunity for victories, the Chicago defense is the perfect laboratory for Antetokounmpo to test his limits and find out just how difficult scoring can be in the NBA playoffs.
In this second clip, it’s clear that Antetokounmpo already possesses many of the skills necessary to become a playmaker in the NBA playoffs. He cleverly broke down a defense in a composed manner and correctly forced the defense’s hand to create a wide-open three for an above-average shooter. That is NBA playmaking at its finest.
Now, the shot didn’t go in and the Bucks offense has stagnated and Antetokounmpo has struggled offensively, but if you look close enough, you will find more than enough to like going forward — especially if Antetokounmpo uses this series as a lesson.
What to Read
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Michael Carter-Williams are killing the Bucks offense – Headlines don’t get much blunter than that one. SB Nation’s Jason Patt dissected the offense of the two young Bucks and explored just how much they have struggled this series.
Lonely start allowed Antetokounmpo to rise – OnMilwaukee’s Jim Owczarski took a look at the path Antetokounmpo took to become the player he is in his second year, including the loneliness he felt as a teenager on his own in a brand new country.
Bucks arena rhetoric rises as key stakeholders meet in Madison – As the Bucks battle on the court in Chicago and Milwaukee, Bucks representatives will continue to fight in the state capitol to figure out the financing needed to get the Bucks new arena built. Brew Hoop’s Frank Madden expertly summarized what has happened thus far.
Clip of the Week
Highlights have been few and far between in this series for the Bucks, but it was nice to see Antetokounmpo get the best of Pau Gasol in the post on this play.
Week in Review
Both teams shot the lights out in the first quarter on Saturday night with the Bulls leading 30-29 after one quarter and it looked like the I-94 series could be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. The Bulls kept scoring and the Bucks couldn’t keep up, eventually falling 103-91.
Five Bucks ended the night in double digits, but Khris Middleton led the way on a poor shooting night (7 of 17) with 18 points. On the other side, the Bucks simply didn’t have an answer for the Bulls backcourt of Derrick Rose (23 points, seven assists) and Jimmy Butler (25 points, six assists).
The first quarter of Game 2 was much more in line with the expectations many had for these two teams. The Bulls had their worst quarter in franchise playoff history with just 11 points, while the Bucks managed just 16. For the second straight game though, the game got much worse for the Bucks after the first quarter.
The Bucks couldn’t stop Jimmy Butler down the stretch, as the Bulls guard scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and 31 overall to lead the Bulls to a 91-82 victory. Middleton led the Bucks in scoring for a second consecutive game with 22 points.
Stats of the Week
10 – In one of the biggest shocks of the postseason, John Henson has recorded the second most touches within 12 feet of the basket. He trails only Dwight Howard through two games. (via NBA Stats)
89.3 – The Bucks’ Antetokounmpo-MCW-Ilyasova-Middleton-Pachulia lineup has posted a defensive rating of 89.3 in 25 minutes of play in the first two games of this series. (via NBA Stats)
24.2 – Only eight of the Bucks’ 33 three point attempts have fallen through the rim, which is good for 24.2 percent and the worst three point percentage in the playoffs. (via NBA Stats)
Quick Bucks is Milwaukee Magazine‘s weekly roundup of all things Milwaukee Bucks written by Eric Nehm. You can yell at Eric or calmly explain to him why you are #TeamTowel or #TeamTshirt when it comes to your all-fan giveaways on Twitter @eric_nehm.