Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo Motivated by Facing 'Giannis Wall' Defense

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJuly 13, 2021

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) dunks on Phoenix Suns forward Frank Kaminsky (8) and Jae Crowder (99) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Giannis Antetokounmpo admitted "you take it personal" at times when opposing defenses design a wall around the rim specifically designed to slow him down and force him into low-percentage outside shots, but knows it is all about making the right play as he looks to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to an NBA Finals victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN shared the two-time MVP's comments about facing such a wall defense:

"The first time I saw the wall was probably two years ago. But I was always capable of passing before that. It's something that I always liked to do. I had coaches and people throughout my career that helped me with finding the right guy, finding the right pass, making the right play. But once I started seeing the wall, two years ago, now it's almost, it's about trust. And it's kind of hard, because you want to be effective, you want to get downhill, you want to do everything.
"And you take it personal, also. There's a team that's building the wall of three people and two guys behind and trying to stop you. Now you have to not take it personal and make the right play, find the right guy. I feel like I did that better since two years ago. ... But I was always a capable passer before the wall was created. [It] is funny that there's a defense out there called the Giannis Wall. It's funny to me, you know?"

The thing is, that wall defense isn't working. 

While it did for the Miami Heat last season when they eliminated Antetokounmpo's Bucks in the second round and held him to fewer than 20 points in two of the four games he played, it isn't in these playoffs.

He torched the Suns for 42 points in Game 2 and followed up with 41 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in Game 3 while leading the Bucks to a victory and closing the series deficit to 2-1. It also helped that Jrue Holiday (21 points, nine assists and five rebounds) and Khris Middleton (18 points, seven rebounds and six assists) played better than they did on the road.

Yet the story from Milwaukee's perspective has been Antetokounmpo's dominance as he overpowers Phoenix's frontcourt, controls the boards, gets out in transition and finds ways to counter the wall.

It even reached the point that his back-to-back 40-point games drew Michael Jordan comparisons considering His Airness scored 40 or more points in four straight NBA Finals games against the Suns in 1993:

CBS Sports HQ @CBSSportsHQ

Reporter: "Michael Jordan had 4 straight 40-point games against the Suns in the NBA Finals ..."<br><br>Giannis: "I'm not Michael Jordan."<br><br>He couldn't believe the stat 😂 <a href="https://t.co/ujIZh1rveg">pic.twitter.com/ujIZh1rveg</a>

Phoenix hasn't hesitated to be physical with Antetokounmpo either, but he made it pay by hitting 13-of-17 free throws in the Game 3 win.

If he continues to shoot like that from the free-throw line and get to the rim as often as he has, the Bucks will be in position to even the series in Wednesday's Game 4.