Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks haven’t been able to beat Phoenix all season. Now they have two days to figure out how or risk being swept in the NBA Finals.
The Bucks enter Sunday’s third game in the best-of-seven championship series trailing 2-0 and no team in NBA history has ever won a series after dropping the first three games.
“We’re going to figure out ways to put ourselves in position to win,” Antetokounmpo said. “We have to stay aggressive going back to Milwaukee. We know what the deal is.”
The Suns edged the Bucks twice by a point in the regular season and beat Milwaukee 118-105 and 118-108 at home to start the finals, with Chris Paul and Devin Booker guiding a versatile and aggressive Phoenix attack.
“We took a step toward the right direction but we have to keep getting better to put ourselves in position to win this series,” Antetokounmpo said.
“Hopefully we can carry it over to game three and do even better and do it with more energy and more physicality and make it tougher for them.”
The Greek forward, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, scored 42 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a losing cause in game two. But the Bucks haven’t supplied him much help.
Jrue Holiday has shot a combined 11-of-35 from the floor and Khris Middleton has fired a combined 17-of-42 from the floor in the first two games.
“Hopefully we can knock down a couple more shots, limit them on some of those 3-pointers and play a little bit faster or freer,” Middleton said.
“Knocking down some shots would make life a lot better for us. But also making things tougher, containing CP and Book, just not allowing them to get to their spots so easily.
“We’ve got to come out, be prepared and be ready for a dogfight. We’ve been in this hole before. It’s not going to be easy, but we’ve got to find a way to do it.”
The Bucks fell behind 2-0 to the Brooklyn Nets in the second round of the playoffs but won the next two at home and advanced in seven games.
“We’ve been here before and we were able to get the job done,” said Antetokounmpo. “I just want to keep being aggressive. Got to do a better job on the 50/50 balls, just do a better job rebounding the ball.
“I’ve got to get my butt back and help my team to get the rebounds. We’re going to hopefully move forward. Hopefully our good habits from throughout the year can take over.”
The Suns, in their first finals since 1993, are two triumphs shy of the team’s first title since it began play in 1968. The Bucks, who hadn’t reached a final since 1974, haven’t won the crown in 50 years.
“Hopefully we can believe in one another and we can play together and have fun,” Antetokounmpo said. “We can compete and dive on the floor, we can make shots, put ourselves in a position to win.
“There’s a lot of things we have to improve. Rebounding the ball. We can make more shots. Getting good looks.
“I don’t know if we’re going to win the next game or the game after that. But I know we’re going to compete.”
‘It’s not over’
Phoenix forward Mikal Bridges, who scored 27 points in game two, said the Suns won’t approach Sunday’s game as a series leader.
“Got to treat it like it’s game one,” Bridges said. “No matter what, our next game is our most important game. Just stay locked in. It’s not over and we got to just got to keep playing our way.”
The Bucks see it as another test of their perseverance.
“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t believe,” Bucks standout Pat Connaughton said. “We have a resilient group in that locker room. We’ve been through adversity and the one thing that has remained consistent is we’ve fought through it together.”