Giannis Antetokounmpo on top of his game for the playoffs

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 22: (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 22: (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Bucks have had their ups and downs in the first round of the playoffs, but Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the very top of his game.

Officially crowned as Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday night, and with a second Most Valuable Player award set to come his way very soon, Giannis Antetokounmpo is already making plenty of great memories in the bubble at Walt Disney World.

Based on his level of play to open up the playoffs, the truth is that those two awards may just still prove to be the beginning of a very fruitful couple of months for Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.

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This year, as will be the case for the remainder of his career, Giannis entered the playoffs knowing that for as long as his team is in the postseason, their opponents’ strategy on the defensive end will be to do whatever they can to slow him down.

In actuality, the only thing that can really be done with any kind of effectiveness is walling off the paint, and ensuring he’s confronted by multiple bodies at all times.

Even though the Magic are undoubtedly missing their most gifted defender in Jonathan Isaac, that has remained Orlando’s approach to their first round series with the Bucks. The personnel tasked with really bothering Antetokounmpo aren’t the most formidable he’ll face in these playoffs, but the truth is that Steve Clifford is a strong defensive coach and the gameplan he’s designed and had his team execute is deserving of plenty of credit.

Still, as the series has progressed, Giannis has increasingly picked the Magic’s defense apart with considerable ease. So much so, that after a couple of inefficient outings in the first two games, Giannis then put up 35 points on 12-of-14 shooting in Game 3, and 31 points on 14-of-21 shooting in Game 4.

Add into that mix that Antetokounmpo led all players in Game 4 with eight assists, and there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that Giannis is now simply much more comfortable and accustomed to facing the kind of defenses that were very much brand new to him a year ago.

That was something that Giannis himself has spoken about, as in the aftermath of last year’s Conference Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors, he made a pledge to never be nullified by that kind of strategy again.

Improved passing in terms of picking out his teammates is a big part of that equation, but Giannis shooting 35 percent on five triples per game against the Magic is far from insignificant either.

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Better defenders and tougher challenges lie in wait for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks beyond Wednesday’s Game 5 with Orlando, but on his current form he looks well-equipped to thrive in those matchups too.