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Milwaukee Bucks NBA Title Romp, A Knock on "Small Ball" Concept


PhilBoxing.com




With the seven foot plus Giannis "Greek Freak" Antetokounmpo scoring nearly half of his team's total point production with 50 on top of 14 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 blocks, the Milwaukee Bucks completed a comeback four game sweep of a feisty Phoenix Suns in game six of the 2020-21 NBA season Finals, winning 109-103 to run away with what has been considered as the real world basketball championship, only its second in more than fifty years.

The taller Bucks come from behind a 2-0 deficit in the series first two games held in Phoenix to win the next four games, three at their homecourt where they were nearly unbeaten the entire post season to clinch their first NBA championship since 1970 with a team built around another phenomenal big man, the seven foot plus Lew Alcindor, later to be known as the legendary Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

For a while, it seemed that the Bucks will be another victim of that concept called "small ball" which first gained acclaim in the new millennium with the highly successful Golden State Warriors that revolve around the trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green plus the near seven foot "small playing shooting sensation Kevin Durant.

In the first two games in Phoenix, the Suns starring ace gunner Devin Booker and Chris Paul were running rings and shooting almost unmolested against the taller and bigger Bucks frontline and backcourt. Booker, Paul and the other Sun stalwarts as Camp Johnson, Anthony Payne as well as big men Jay Crowder and DeAndre Ayton seemed too fast and smart for Giannis and company.

It seemed that even the loss to injury of Phoenix big man Mario Saric would not even matter for the Suns championship campaign.

But then signs of things to come were already apparent. Firstly, the Suns have nothing to stop or even contain Giannis or match the pair of seven footers Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis. They have to find a way to limit Karl Middleton. And they will be in big trouble once Jrue Holiday and PJ Tucker as well as Pat Connaughton also turn the heat on offense apart from pestering them on defense.

That fear was realized in game three with series going to Milwaukee for the next two games with the Bucks asserting their size advantage on both ends of the court to blow out the Suns, 120-100, even easing up in the last two minutes.

In that victory, Giannis with 41, Lopez and Portis with 11 each accounted for more than half of the Bucks totals in points as well as rebounds. Meanwhile, Middleton, Holiday, Connaughton and Tucker scored more than 50 points among themselves.

In series tying game 4, the Bucks continued playing big with coach Mike Budenholzer even experimenting fielding Antetokounmpo, Lopez and Portis simultaneously which caught the Suns off guard. Giannis and Lopez combined forces with the hot shooting Middleton and suddenly on Holiday while Portis wreck havoc on defense powering the Bucks to a comfortable 109-103 win.

The all important series game 5 went back to Phoenix and the Suns were expected to surprise the Bucks with the necessary adjustments and put the pressure back on their adversaries. Booker, Paul and Ayton combined for more than 80 points but Antetokounmpo scored 32 aside from pulling down rebounds and assisting as well as providing screens and acting as decoy for Middleton and Holiday who combined for 57 markers between themselves to notch the series leading victory, 123-119. Giannis himself delivered the game winning alley-oop dunk off a Holiday steal and assist. Earlier Giannis recorded perhaps the league's greatest championship series block on Ayton after the Bucks have gotten the lead, 101-99 which they would never relinquish.

The championship winning game six was merely a repetition of the strategy Budenholzer had employed throughout the season which maximizes the Bucks advantage with Antetokounmpo, Lopez and Portis basically.

In the final analysis, it could be said that the bruited small ball concept is really a myth. Basketball remains essentially a big man's game.

Even in the case of the Golden State Warriors with the long range artillery shooting of Curry, Thompson, Green and KD, they would not be as successful as they were in their championship heydays without the likes of big men as David West, Javale McGee, Kevon Looney and Damian Jones presenting threats down low both on offense and defense.

In fact, even the Chicago Bulls known more for their big and athletic backcourt of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Tony Kukoc and Dennis Rodman needed the likes of Luc Longley, John Salley, Bill Wennington and the google wearing Horace Grant to keep the opposition on the lookout on both ends of the floor.

If you asked me, the Boston Celtics foursome of Robert Parrish, Bill Walton, Kevin McHale and Larry Bird remains the gold standard as far as big ball basketball in the NBA is concerned. Followed by Los Angeles Lakers' Kareem Abdul Jabbar, James Worthy, Bob McAdoo and Magic Johnson.

Personally, I think the current Los Angeles Clippers with Kahwi Leonard and Serge Ibaka healthy and playing alongside Paul George, Reggie Jackson, Nick Batum, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Beverly would have given this Milwaukee Bucks team a stiffer run for this season's title.

Alas...

The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at teddyreynoso@yahoo.com and by phone 09215309477.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Teodoro Medina Reynoso.


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