2. Playoffs Approaching
The word around the league is that the NBA playoffs will take place, regardless of whether the structure and format looks much different than what we’re accustomed to. There’s been talked of an NCAA-style single-elimination game, and even a best-of-three playoff structure, as it’s clear the owners are willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure the playoffs take place.
It’s quite possible that the playoffs could immediately start if/when the season resumes, to make up for the lost time. With this being the case, Giannis needs to have his focus on the postseason, because if he doesn’t deliver in the playoffs, many will point to how he carried the Harden feud all season and under-performed when it mattered most.
In fact, Giannis has gone 14-of-35 (40 percent) from the floor in his last two elimination games, while averaging 21.5 points per game. This was below his per-game averages during each of those seasons, which unsurprisingly led to defeats for the Bucks.
In fact, Giannis and the Bucks were upset during the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals matchup against the Toronto Raptors, as they lost four games in a row, despite winning the first two by 30 points combined. During the four consecutive games in which Milwaukee lost during that series, Giannis posted averages of 20.5 points on 43 percent shooting, while also averaging four turnovers per game.
This includes a dismal performance in Game 3, in which Giannis had his fewest points in the playoffs dating back to the 2014-15 season, which was his first time playing in the postseason. Despite playing 44 minutes in a game that went to double-overtime, Giannis had a measly 12 points on 16 shots. All in all, Giannis went 5-of-16 from the field and added a game-high eight turnovers in a game the Bucks would have likely won had he performed better.
A Game 3 victory would’ve put the Bucks in a 3-0 lead, which the data suggests is a 100 percent likelihood of winning the series. But Giannis went scoreless in both overtimes, and only attempted a total of two shots through both periods.
It goes without saying, but if this was Harden, he would be criticized and highly scrutinized for such a performance. Harden has been labelled a postseason choker, even though that’s far from the truth. Giannis got a pass in each of the last two postseasons, but especially last season, as Milwaukee had the best record in the league and didn’t make it out of the Eastern Conference.
He won’t be as lucky if that happens this time around, and people will point to the season-long beef he maintained with Harden if that happens again. For this reason, he had to put an end to it before the playoffs start.