After struggling offensively through the first few games of the series, some words of encouragement from Giannis gives Khris Middleton and the Milwaukee Bucks a boost.
During the Milwaukee Bucks’ first eight games in the bubble, they were far from their usual dominant selves outside of the games against Boston and Washington and the second half of the Miami game.
But when it came to Khris Middleton, on the offensive end, he was putting up similar numbers to his season averages. This included four games where he shot at least 50 percent from the field and two over 64 percent.
Unfortunately, that didn’t carry over to Milwaukee’s first few playoff games. In fact, we saw Middleton really struggle through the first three games and most of the fourth game against Orlando.
Averaging 31.1 minutes per game through the first three – which is more than he averaged all season – Middleton’s attempts were down, and he shot just 32.4 percent from the floor. From deep, it was even worse as he hit only 29.4 percent of his shots, and overall he was averaging just 11 points, compared to the 20.9 he averaged during the regular season.
With the Bucks being the superior team, even with Middleton going cold, they were still up 2-1 in the series. Although it wasn’t coming easy. They were stunned in Game 1, and through three-quarters of Game 4, they held just a three-point lead.
However, that is when the tide began to turn for both Middleton and the Milwaukee Bucks, and it came after some words of encouragement from Giannis Antetokounmpo (via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):
“Just shoot the ball until your arms fall off,” Antetokounmpo said he told Middleton. “Just keep being aggressive. It doesn’t matter. Shoot it every time you touch it. Just shoot it. Every time. Eventually, it’s going to go in.”
Before the start of that quarter, Middleton was just 1-9 with three points. But after hitting his first shot of the fourth quarter, he was off and running with the Bucks’ offense. Middleton would hit his first five shots and finish the quarter 6-10 with 18 points as Milwaukee saw its lead increase from three to as much as 19. From there, the Bucks would go on to win comfortably.
Even when Middleton is struggling as he has been, this Bucks team counts on him, and they believe that he is going to make the right play and that the ball is eventually going to go in. So he needs to continue being aggressive and as Middleton put it, force the issue:
“That’s been something my teammates, coaches, everybody’s been telling me since Day 1 since I got here in Milwaukee is no matter how I’m shooting I’ve got to keep shooting,” Middleton said. “That’s the only way it’s going to go in. At times I think I’m unselfish and there’s times where I think I have to force the issue and I think that’s what they really wanted me to do – at least start doing in that fourth quarter. Force the issue, don’t worry about nothing else, but try to be myself.”
Although this series against the Magic has been frustrating at times, I don’t think there is anyone out there who thought the Bucks were ever in jeopardy of losing it. However, this is a team with much bigger aspirations than making it out of Round 1, and if they are going to make a run at the NBA title, they’ll need Middleton playing well.
So Khris, just keep shooting.