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NBA Playoffs: The Serge/Giannis Affair Warms-up For Game 3

Game 1, Giannis Antetokounmpo was as usual the Greek Freak for the Milwaukee Bucks. Game 2, Serge Ibaka surged the Toronto Raptors to a win, leveling the series at 1-1.

Tonight, what Game 3 will produce, leaves a fierce urge fueled by anticipation of how the Bucks/Raptors playoff game will end. One thing is for sure, it is too close to call.

Antetokounmpo produced a vibrant and unstoppable performance in Game 1 win to finish with 28 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and one block.

Nothing could stop the towering 6-foot-11 forward who ‘the Toronto Raptors threw everything they could at, and none of Toronto’s defenders could do much to stop him’ including a crazy dunk over a helpless Ibaka.

Yes! It was staggeringly bold and it left a mission statement considering that Ibaka is one of the best rim protectors and the best reliable option at the back for the Raptors.

“I remember that play,” said a thoughtful Ibaka in a post-Game 1 interview.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”A guy like him (Giannis), when you switch you have to be up. I was down (waiting for him at the rim). [/perfectpullquote]

“It’s not just him, anybody in the league, when somebody is coming full speed, it’s tough. In my mind, I was worried about foul.

“Those kind of plays we have to do a better job (defending), like, myself, when we switch, I have to be up and then get back.

“On the switch, you go up first and then you back up and you’re ready to play one-on-one.

“If you wait for him (Antetokounmpo), he’s going to come full speed, he will attack you and it’s a foul or a basket.”

Gladly Ibaka made up for it in Game 2. Regardless of the loss, Game 1 was a BIG one for Ibaka who finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds despite suffering an injury in which he rolled his ankle after coming down on Antetokounmpo’s outstretched foot after a three-point shot attempt.

Game 2 however, was a whole other story. 16 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks and 4 three-pointers – Ibaka erupted with vengeance.

His blocks were authoritative against two of the Buck’s longest and most athletic players including one on rookie Thon Maker, dubbed ‘one of Ibaka’s many stylistic successors that roam this league now’.

Giannis finished with 24 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and one triple in Game 2. Not his finest performance of the night but he was still a pain for the Raptors.

“Trying to stop Giannis,” Kyle Lowry said in a postgame NBA TV interview.

“That’s like an impossible task.”

Raptors seem to have found a solution in Game 2 – take the pressure off Ibaka by assigning a specific shield against Giannis’ explosive attacks.

This allowed for Ibaka – ‘tasked with patrolling a lane full of players who look to improve upon his prototype’ – to comfortably safe guard the rim.

Injuries and age may have taken a toll on Ibaka, but his presence is crucial for the Raptors going forward.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It’s big. Just getting out there, being a soldier, doing the things he was able to do tonight for us, especially defensively.[/perfectpullquote]

“He hit some key shots in the fourth quarter. He got us going, playing through that sore ankle, and without him, we wouldn’t have got this win tonight,” DeMar DeRozan on Ibaka’s Game 2 performance.

Giannis on the other hand, well, there is no limit to what he can do moreover the play-offs are yet to feel his wrath, because it Giannis-as-usual for now.



Featured photo: (Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

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