The Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks is expected by many experts to be the best series of the playoffs. Not only because they will have three former Most Valuable Players on the floor at the same time, but the Nets and Bucks are arguably the two healthiest teams left in the playoffs.
A chippy five-game warm-up series with the Boston Celtics may have been exactly what the Nets needed to prepare them for this Bucks series. Brooklyn will have their hands full trying to slow down 2020 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
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James Harden Rips Giannis in 2020 Interview
Another interesting storyline in the series between the Bucks and the Nets, is a rivalry being renewed between former NBA Most Valuable Players James Harden and Giannis. The ‘Greek Freak’ famously spoiled Harden’s hopes of being a back-to-back winner of the Most Valuable Player award in 2019 despite ‘The Beard’ averaging 34.3 points per game that season. Harden previously had some strong opinions about the way Giannis plays the game and questioned how much of the Bucks’ star’s playstyle is predicated on actual skill.
“I wish I could just run and be 7 feet and just dunk. Like that takes no skill at all,” Harden said per ESPN’s Rachel Nichols back in 2020. “I gotta actually learn how to play basketball, how to have skill. I take that any day.”
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Giannis Responds to James Harden’s Jab About His Skills
While Giannis can indeed mow over defenders with his superhuman power he is much more than just a wrecking ball. Giannis has skills on the court, he has averaged 5 or more assists in each of the last three seasons and has not shot below 50% from the field since the 2014 season. While Giannis knows his game is based upon much more than his strength, he notes that having overwhelming power is a tool that has been used by some of the all-time greats.
“My game is not just power for sure, obviously, it’s going to be times where you’ve got to power through guys. Like one of the best players, LeBron, Michael Jordan, Kobe and all those guys … Shaq, all those guys, they were extremely physical with their play. They made their presence felt in the paint, but obviously, I try to work on my game, midrange shots, 3s, being able to screen and roll faster and make the right pass,” Giannis said in response to Harden’s comments back in 2020 per ESPN.
Giannis is viewed by many as a unicorn in terms of his playstyle. Standing at 6’11 and 242 pounds he has the size and strength of a Shaquille O’Neal or Dwight Howard but has the skillset to be a wing, like Kevin Durant or LeBron James. Even with Giannis already having a unique skill set, he is still trying to improve his game.
“It’s hard to drive full speed and try to make the right pass to the corner. I try to get my passes more accurate and it’s a lot of things I’m still adding,” Giannis continued. “Hopefully, when I add all those things in my game, I’m a more complete player and I’m better and can help my team win and the game is easier.”
Nets and Bucks fans, get ready. This is going to be an all-time great playoff series.