Better Block: Giannis denying Ayton or LeBron's chasedown on Iguodala in 2016? | First Take

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ESPN 15 July, 2021 - 01:00pm 24 views

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Chris Paul’s sloppy Game 4 finish brought back memories of his checkered playoff past

The Washington Post 15 July, 2021 - 02:06pm

Game 4, with a chance to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Forty seconds left. Down by two points. On the road in a raucous Fiserv Forum. Chris Paul, arguably the surest-handed player of his generation, sized up Jrue Holiday. The Suns would have it no other way.

But here, with all eyes on him and the game in the balance, Phoenix’s reliable leader stumbled badly. After using a screen to free himself from Holiday, Paul attempted to evade Giannis Antetokounmpo by crossing over from his left to his right. Antetokounmpo swiped at him, but Paul lost his balance on his own, falling to the court as Holiday corralled the loose ball and took off the other direction. Paul returned to his feet in time to see Khris Middleton finish a layup that helped Milwaukee seal a 109-103 comeback win on Wednesday.

The critical miscue marked Paul’s fifth turnover on a night to forget, as he finished with 10 points on 5-for-13 shooting, four rebounds and seven assists in 37 minutes.

“Bad decision-making,” Paul lamented afterward. “Timely. Down two, I try to crossover and slip. I had some bad passes in the first half. For me, I’ve got to take care of the ball. We had 17 turnovers. We shot the ball too well not to have those opportunities to score.”

Indeed, this was a golden opportunity wasted for the Suns, who squandered a scintillating 42-point effort from Devin Booker and now must return home for Saturday’s Game 5 with the series tied at two games apiece. Booker, who missed stretches of the third and fourth quarters due to foul trouble, could only watch from the sidelines as Phoenix’s offense stalled out. The 24-year-old guard returned with just under six minutes remaining, but he never got back into rhythm and scored just four points in the final period.

Credit Middleton for rising to the moment with Milwaukee’s season hanging in the balance. The two-time all-star forward scored 14 of his team-high 40 points in the final period, delivering just as he had in late-game situations against the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks earlier in the postseason.

Paul’s stretch-run play, by contrast, was marked by numerous regrettable moments. With less than four minutes remaining and Phoenix leading by three, Paul drove into the paint, drew a double team and blindly threw a jump pass across the court that was deflected and intercepted by Antetokounmpo. That turnover led to a transition layup on a play that nearly saw Booker commit his sixth foul.

On Phoenix’s next possession, Paul drove into traffic and tossed up a wild reverse layup that Antetokounmpo spiked off the backboard. With Paul out of the play after falling to the court, Milwaukee pushed the ball and found Pat Connaughton for an open corner three-pointer that gave the Bucks their first lead of the fourth quarter.

“We’ve got to execute,” Paul said. “We’re a team that has closed out games like that all season long. This is a tough one.”

When the dust settled, the Suns had matched their 2021 postseason-high with 17 turnovers. Five came as Phoenix was outscored 33-21 in the decisive fourth quarter.

“The turnovers just crushed us,” Suns Coach Monty Williams said, adding that many of them came via “self-inflicted” mistakes. “It’s like a blip on the screen because we haven’t played that way from a turnover perspective this year. Usually when we do, we bounce back and we’re a bit more efficient. Give [the Bucks] credit. They do a really good job of getting hands on balls and they were switching a lot tonight. … But this is not our normal.”

Williams added that Paul was “fine” from a health standpoint. The 36-year-old guard, who has committed 15 turnovers in the past three games combined, has battled shoulder and wrist injuries during the playoffs and missed two games due to coronavirus protocols during the Western Conference finals.

“Great players have games like that,” Williams said. “We expect [Paul] to bounce back.”

Of course, Paul has never been closer to a title during a career that has been marked by playoff disappointments. While injuries have spoiled multiple postseason runs, Paul has also long been haunted by his uncharacteristically sloppy play in the 2014 playoffs. With the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder engaged in a fierce second-round series, he committed an inexplicable turnover and a costly foul in the closing seconds of a pivotal Game 5 defeat. Paul later referred to that series loss as “probably the biggest heartbreak ever.”

The stakes now are simple and unsparing: A Suns championship would effectively bury that traumatic chapter for good, while a Bucks comeback from an 0-2 Finals deficit would force Paul to confront an even deeper pain.

The ball, as always, will be in his hands.

• Game 1: Suns 118, Bucks 105 | Game 2: Suns 118, Bucks 108 | Game 3: Bucks 120, Suns 100

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The Block Heard 'Round The World

WTMJ 15 July, 2021 - 06:12am

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 14: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks blocks a shot by Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns during the second half in Game Four of the NBA Finals at Fiserv Forum on July 14, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It may be the greatest block in NBA history.

Up 2 with just over a minute to play, Giannis Antetokounmpo pirouettes through the lane to deny Suns big man DeAndre Ayton what would’ve been a game-tying dunk on an alley-oop.

The Bucks go on to beat the Suns 109 to 103 to even up the NBA Finals at two games a piece.

Giannis creates an all-time great NBA highlight that will live forever.

Hear WTMJ’s Bryan Dee give the historical context of the block by clicking the player above.

He’s a FREAK!! pic.twitter.com/psoObkEdef

THE BLOCK. pic.twitter.com/ZzzRJ2f6MI

For more than 90 years, WTMJ-AM has been "Wisconsin's Radio Station".

© 2021 Good Karma Brands Milwaukee, LLC.

© 2021 Good Karma Brands Milwaukee, LLC.

Giannis Antetokounmpo's dramatic block of Deandre Ayton helps Bucks win Game 4 of NBA Finals

USA TODAY 14 July, 2021 - 11:24pm

Giannis Antetokounmpo delivered an epic late-game block of Deandre Ayton to help the Milwaukee Bucks win NBA Finals Game 4 against the Phoenix Suns.

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USA TODAY Sports' Jeff Zillgitt breaks down how Giannis Antetokounmpo has the potential to break out in the 2021 NBA Finals. USA TODAY

There's a reason why he's called the Greek Freak.

And Giannis Antetokounmpo delivered Exhibit A late in Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.

With the Milwaukee Bucks holding on to a two-point lead with just over a minute remaining, the Suns' Devin Booker tossed an alley-oop pass to Deandre Ayton. Antetokounmpo rose to the occasion to block Ayton's shot and preserve the Bucks' lead.  

Milwaukee went on to win, 109-103, tying of the best-of-seven championship series at two games apiece, and keeping the Bucks' chances alive to win the franchise's first NBA championship since 1971.

Giannis' HUGE BLOCK helps seal the @Bucks Game 4 win! 🔥 #ThatsGame#NBAFinals tied at 2-2.. Game 5 is Saturday at 9pm/et on ABC. pic.twitter.com/aanNuTUtlF

"Just a hustle play. I thought I was going to get dunked on, to be honest with you," Antetokounmpo said. "But you know, going down the stretch, just do whatever it takes to win the game. Just put yourself in a position that can win the game.

"I saw the play coming. I saw that (Devin Booker) was going to throw the lob and I was just going to jump vertical toward the rim. Hopefully I can be there in time, and I was there in time and was able to get a good block and go down and get two points.

"So it was a great hustle play."

Bucks teammate Pat Connaughton said he was in "shock and awe" over the block.

"In my opinion, it's the best block of all time. Obviously, we're a little biased and you can talk about the LeBron (James) block as well," Connaughton said, referring to LeBron James' block in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. "But as far as a block where he was covering the pick-and-roll, he had to judge where the pass was, where Ayton was catching it and trying to dunk it, above the box, it's about as impressive as you can get."

Connaughton continued to analyze why he thought Antetokounmpo's block was better than James' 2016 play.

"I would look at the criteria of greatest block of all time based off of difficulty of the block and then time and score," Connaughton said. "Obviously, LeBron's time and score probably has the edge in that situation because of when it was and helped them literally win a championship that game. But I think the difference between the time and score difference and then the difficulty of the block difference, gives the edge to Giannis just because a chase-down block, you have a little bit more of an ability to read, and obviously it's a great block and we're talking about two of the greatest blocks of all time and I don't want to discredit that block.

“But Giannis was guarding the pick-and-roll, that's a play that they have done time and time again. Book threw a great pass, threw it high and away from any defender and Giannis was able to recover. He's defensive player of the year, two-time MVP for a reason, and I think it's those types of plays to be able to read where Ayton is, where the ball is, and to have the athleticism to get that high and get literally all of the basketball is why I would give the edge to him."

This wasn't Antetokounmpo's first mind-blowing block in the 2021 NBA Finals.

In Game 1 of the Finals, Antetokounmpo – in his first action since hyperextending his left knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals – had a chase-down block of a Mikal Bridges layup attempt. ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy noted on the game broadcast how Antetokounmpo's block of Bridges was reminiscent of James' legendary play on Andre Iguodala in the 2016 Finals. 

Now, it seems, Antetokounmpo has two block plays in the all-time conversation.

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