Giannis Antetokounmpo on Sunday powered the Milwaukee Bucks to a crucial 120-100 victory over the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals, reviving the Bucks’ chances to win their first title in 50 years.
The 26-year-old Greek forward scored 41 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to spark the Bucks, who pulled within 2-1 in the best-of-seven championship series ahead of Game 4 in Milwaukee tomorrow.
“To give ourselves an opportunity to win this series, we’ve got to stay aggressive,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s all going to be mental from here.”
The two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, who had 42 points and 12 rebounds in a Game 2 loss, joined Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 and LeBron James in 2016 as the only NBA Finals players with back-to-back 40-point, 10-rebound performances.
Asked if he would threaten Jordan’s four 40-point games in a row, Antetokounmpo said: “I’m no Michael Jordan.”
“All I care about right now, it’s getting one more [win], that’s all, just take care of business, doing our job,” he said.
Antetokounmpo hit 14-of-23 shots from the floor and 13-of-17 from the free-throw line to lead the Bucks to a crucial victory, as no team has ever rallied from 3-0 down to win an NBA playoff series.
“We knew what type of game it was going to be,” Antetokounmpo said. “We knew we had to play good basketball. I was trying to be as aggressive as I could.”
Jrue Holiday added 21 points and nine assists, while Khris Middleton had 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
“I was trying to drive and open things up. I knew I had to get Khris and Jrue involved,” Antetokounmpo said. “My teammates want me to be aggressive.”
The Bucks, hosting their first NBA Finals game in 47 years, improved to an NBA-best 8-1 at home in the playoffs by beating the Suns, who had been a playoffs-best 6-2 on the road.
“We knew what we had to do. We knew what this game meant to us, to the city,” Holiday said. “It was about us coming out hard and being able to execute.”
“It was a tough lesson for us to learn,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We know we have to play with an unreal amount of aggression for 48 minutes, and all our guys know we didn’t. I expect our guys to bounce back.”
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