MILWAUKEE – It took all 51 seconds Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo to announce to the world – and, more importantly, to Toronto Raptors – how will the game continue.
He hung from the rim of his own Miss between two defenders. A fierce rejection of something that looked like clear two points for Raptors' center Mark Gasol. Another strong helmet after he was alone under the basket.
"I think it's definitely a certain tone," said Antetocunmpoo. – That's what I tried to do.
In a moment, the Bucks were off and running, controlling the action and never looking back while dismounting Toronto, winning 125-103 on Friday night to take a 2-0 lead in the best of the seven finals of the Eastern Conference.
It's been a big deal for most of this season that the Golden State Warriors, armed with its four All-NBA stars, will go up to third and fourth for five years. After the Warriors were able to send their bravest rival Rockets, in Game 6 of the semi-final of the Western Conference in Houston without Kevin Durant and Demarcus Casino, this feeling grew louder.
It is time, however, for this thinking to end.
"We received MVP in our team, man," Bucks Malcolm Broddon's security told ESPN as he left the yard. – We have very good guys in this team, a great coach … we make it all year, man.
"I have great expectations for this squad.
The same must be said of the rest of the basketball world.
Now, let's understand a few things: this series is far from the job done. Raptors have won 58 games this season Kawhi Leonard and they still have the next two games coming to Toronto to return to this series. Only 48 hours ago, Toronto led three-quarters and seemed to be able to steal the first game of this series. And if Milwaukee gets to the NBA finals, Durant will probably come back at some point, maybe the cousins.
So, no, it's not a statement that Larry O'Brien's trophy comes to Milwaukee. But it is a recognition that the idea of the 2019 Bucks title should no longer be seen as a fantasy.
For six months, all of the Bucks have managed a rude league, setting the best league record 60-22 as they did it with an average win which puts them among the best teams in the recent memory. However, people wondered what Bucks would look like when they faced rivals from the elite in the playoffs.
After desperately removing Detroit Pistons in the first round, he waited to see what Boston Celtics would do to them. After one piece at the beginning of this series, Bucks rolled through Celtics four times.
Now that you not only survive an unstable game in the first game, but also by rapping Raptors from start to finish in game 2, it's time to stop asking whether these Bucks are real, and instead wonder why it took so long for everyone else to admit it.
In some ways, the doubts about these Bucks were extremely normal. The last time this franchise won a series of playoffs, Antetokounmpo was 6 years old and was living in Athens, Greece. Bucks left the playoffs in the first round losing in three of the last four seasons, and only one player in their regular rotation – backup defender George Hill – has experience with the NBA finals.
Teams usually do not miss out on steps in the NBA playoffs. They certainly do not leap usually. Yet that's exactly what Bucks did.
Much of this is due to the presence of Antetokounmpo, who has become one of the brightest young talents in the game to probably the best player in the world. It was enough that before Bucks passed Raptors on Friday, the NBA announced its finalists for this year's Los Angeles awards, with Antetokounmpo finishing among them as the most valuable league player and defending player of the year. honors.
This is his special ability to influence the game at both ends – he completes with 30 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and theft in Game 2 – that makes him a single force, one of which Bucks have constructed his entire team .
"I'm out of luck to have Janice," Bucks coach Mike Budenholtzer said. – He's incredible and then you're like, "Wow, I think he can be even better."
"The big part about Janice is he wants to be better, we train him and we are on him, and we think he can do more, and he just takes it in. It's so unique to have a player like the one who just wants to be great, and you feel like he has more.
While Budenholder rated his star, the same moods could be shared across the Milwaukee. It was also good that Budenholtzer was nominated as a finalist at the NBA coach of the year on Friday, as his system built around Antechokunpo allowed the team to come out.
The same can be said for the general manager of the team, John Horst, who signed Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez and Pat Connaughton last summer with a combined $ 12 million, then completed a pair of excellent interim deals to add Hill and Nikola Mirotic.
All five players turned into key teeth in the Milwaukee playoffs rotation – one that remained stable in nine players during the playoffs and held even when other, allegedly deeper teams faced him.
Steven A. Smith says the Golden State Warriors needs Kevin Durant to defeat Milwaukee Bucks if he meets in the NBA finals.
"It's amazing," said Antonempoo about the depth of Milwaukee. "It's so good to see the guys come into the game, mentally preparing, setting the tone of the whole team and just playing hard.
"In this team, every day, boys can get up, that's the beauty of basketball, that's the beauty of our team that we trust each other."
Bucks trust each other during this magical season. What they are waiting for – at least until now – is the rest of the basketball world to catch up with them.
In the corridors of Fiserv Forum after the victory of Milwaukee Game 2 this feeling began to spread. Yes, there is a long way to go. Yes, the Raptors remain a great threat that is good enough to make this a more competitive series. Yes, the warriors are almost on the horizon afterwards, with one of the largest collections of star forces the League has ever seen – and with the know-how of the championship and the Milwaukee experience.
What Bucks has is their resume. Bucks are the dominant NBA power throughout the season, destroying a ball that has smashed virtually everything that has been put in its way. Milwaukee has an incandescent star and a system that fits perfectly into this star and is served by ideally suited parts. And if Bucks passes to the NBA finals, they will have an advantage over the home.
This is a formula that can produce this year's NBA champion. It's time to start recognizing this as more than a fantastic proposal. Instead, this is a perfectly reasonable reality.