During the 2021 NBA Finals, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo became the first player since former Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal to record at least 40 points and 10 rebounds in back-to-back games.
O’Neal accomplished the feat during the 2000 NBA Finals when he recorded 43 points and 19 rebounds in Game 1 and followed it up with 40 points and 24 rebounds in Game 2. Antetokounmpo joined O’Neal after accumulating 42 points and 12 rebounds in Game 2 and then 41 points and 13 rebounds in Game 3.
Antetokounmpo has managed to overcome a knee injury he suffered in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks and is currently looking like the player who won back-to-back MVP awards. The Greek Freak is averaging 34.3 points, 14 rebounds and 4.7 assists in the series, and is also attempting nearly 16 free throws a game.
Outside of Deandre Ayton, the Phoenix Suns do not have any players who can credibly guard Antetokoumpo, especially once he gets it going from the post area. In Game 3, Ayton was plagued by foul trouble, which opened up the door for the Bucks star to eviscerate the undersized Suns frontcourt.
Much like O’Neal, Antetokounmpo relies on his ability to finish around the rim and dominate the painted area. O’Neal tortured the Indiana Pacers as they simply had no answer for his brute strength and size, and although Antetokoumpo is not nearly the same physical specimen the Lakers star was, he is still a handful for any wing player to defend.
Despite Antetokoumpo’s herculean efforts on both ends of the floor, Milwaukee still finds itself down 2-1 in the series. Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday have yet to really get going this series, but it may ultimately not matter if Antetokounmpo continues his level of play. Game 4 will surely be a battle and it will be interesting to see how much higher Antetokounmpo can raise his game.
O’Neal sees unprecedented streak snapped
Although O’Neal and Antetokounmpo now belong to an exclusive statistical group, the former Lakers big man did see an incredible streak of his broken during the 2021 NBA playoffs. After the L.A. Clippers and Rajon Rondo were eliminated, it snapped O’Neal’s 37-year streak of having a former teammate in the NBA Finals.
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