Giannis Antetokounmpo is having a harder time concentrating and staying in the moment with the Milwaukee Bucks on the verge of winning their first NBA title in 50 years.
The 26-year-old Greek star forward, two-time NBA MVP, can overcome past playoff failures and claim his first crown with a victory in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday in Milwaukee.
“It means a lot,” Antetokounmpo said. “But I can’t get too carried away. I have to stay in the present. I can’t worry about the result.
“We know what the deal is. It’s one game away from being an NBA champion, to be in the history of this game, to still be there. No one can take it away from you. It’s gonna be big. “
The Bucks lead the best of seven showdown 3-2 and can win their first crown since 1971 in front of a boisterous sold-out crowd with 25,000 more people racing the ‘Deer District’ and watching on screens outside the arena.
“It’s going to be amazing to do it in front of our fans,” Antetokounmpo said. “But there are more steps to get there.
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“We have to focus. We have to watch the clips and see what we did well, what we did not do well, what can we do better.
“When the game starts we have to take possession of both and hopefully we can be able to win.”
Jrue Holiday of Milwaukee said control on an emotional roller coaster is vital.
“We have to really lock in, not go up too high, not go down too low,” Holiday said. “You have to give your all. At this point, there is no excuse.
Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to the best NBA record in the previous two seasons only to see Milwaukee make disappointing playoff outings, losing four in a row to Toronto in 2019 and losing to NBA runner-up Miami in 2020.
“What we’ve been through the last couple of years has prepared us to be right now,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It’s part of our journey and we still have a way to go. “
Antetokounmpo insists on the work ahead.
“We have to take advantage of the moment,” Antetokounmpo said. “But the job is not done. We have to realize this. We have to stay in the present.
“We must remain humble. When this team is humble, this team is very, very dangerous.
Past playoff failures have taught the Bucks to be champions, said Pat Connaughton of Milwaukee.
“When adversity struck in the playoffs, we didn’t really get through it,” he said.
“Throughout these playoffs, when adversity struck, we came together even stronger. We supported each other. It is the essence of championship-caliber basketball.
The Bucks could become only the fifth team to win the title after losing the first two games of the Finals, joining the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers, 2006 Miami Heat, 1977 Portland Trail Blazers and 1969 Boston Celtics.
The rare feat would place Antetokounmpo among some of the greatest legends in the NBA, including LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade and record 11-time champion Bill Russell.
“We are not stopping,” Antetokounmpo said. “Usually when you lose 0-2 you stop the competition in some way. But this team, we don’t do that. We keep coming, keep competing.
Greatness in the struggle
The Suns, who lost Game 5 at home on Saturday, must win on Tuesday to force a game-winning seventh game on Thursday in Phoenix.
“The pressure is a privilege,” said Suns coach Monty Williams. “As hard as it is, this is what you want. You are not going to find greatness on a beach. You are going to find it in wrestling.
The Suns are chasing the first title in their 53-year history.
“If you sulk about it, in the blink of an eye the season will be over,” Phoenix forward Mikal Bridges said. “So we’re going to learn from it. We know what we have to do. We’re ready, man, do or die.
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