Milwaukee empathizes with last season’s Brooklyn team


Giannis Antetokounmpo plays the role of Kevin Durant from last season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo plays the role of Kevin Durant from last season.
picture: Getty Images

It’s déjà vu againfor the Milwaukee Bucks – their conference semifinals look eerily similar to last year’s series against the Brooklyn Nets. To refresh your memory, they were saved from being sent home by none other than Kevin Durant’s big toe, landing juuuuust on that three-point line and sending the game into overtime so the Bucks put it away and were able to continue on their way to their first final victory in half a century.

But this time they’re across the aisle. If there’s any pattern to the sport’s virtual randomness and odds, I’d say that this year’s Bucks are, in a way, last year’s Nets. They’re the reigning champions with a new expectation to live up to, and while that wasn’t Brooklyn’s case last year, they had an all-star team that was expected to easily be a small team like Milwaukee would care. Khris Middleton’s absence was deeply felt on the court against the Celtics, as were injuries to James Harden and Kyrie Irving last year for Brooklyn in the first four and last three games of the series, respectively.

And just like KD last year, Giannis Antetokounmpo is forced to put the team on its back – in last night’s loss he amassed 44 points while the rest of the team combined contributed 51. It’s a ridiculous stat – yet one incredibly similar to Durant’s performance in Game 7 last year, in which he scored 48 points compared to the 63 others on the roster combined. There’s only so much a Superstar can do to lead their team to victory through sheer will, and KD and Giannis are testing those limits.

Game 6 on Friday night, in which the Celtics overcame an all-or-nothing situation with a strong ending and a wondrous performance from Jayson Tatum, will force a Game 7 just like the Bucks did last year. Calling Jayson Tatum a rising star would be a disservice — he’s risen. He amassed 46 points last night and if he continues in the playoffs he’ll certainly make a case for it newly minted Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP trophy. Tatum, who faced Durant in the first round of this year’s playoffs and led his team to a victorious victory in Brooklyn, has his sights set on Giannis as the next superstar opponent to outdo – and he’s on track to do both they do seemingly compete to break as many records as possible along the way.

On Sunday, the Bucks have a chance to turn the tables on being the team to step around their star not touching a toe at the three-point line in crunch time to meet last year’s expectations and go you to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics are a far more successful franchise than the Bucks in terms of championship history, but it’s still well over a decade since they last took home the trophy. If the team can step around Giannis and help him end this, the Bucks have a solid chance of repeating it, but when it comes to a Tatum-Antetokounmpo showdown there’s no telling who will come out on top.

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