A Giannis Game
The problem facing the Raptors is that Game 1 was not The Giannis Game. The problem facing the Raptors is that Game 1 was a Giannis game.
He played bigger than even his impressive numbers indicate – the highlight reel of Giannis in Game, 1 which you have seen, is a better highlight reel than the career highlight reels of most of the 4,460 players in league history.
But that is Giannis. The 28 points, the eight rebounds, the three assists, the one block, the two steals. That is pretty much standard Giannis – he averaged roughly 23 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and close to two blocks and steals in the regular season.
The four breezy dunks, the game-altering block. That is Giannis. Getting into a little foul trouble, missing a couple clear looks on threes. Again, Giannis. The part about being the best player on the court. Giannis.
This is not to not celebrate his performance.
Giannis set the tone of the game for himself and for his team with that driving dunk past DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas for the first Bucks points of the afternoon. And he dictated the game thereafter. He hit all four of his (non-3-pointer) jumpers. He was a touch more efficient overall than usual, making 13-of-18 shots from the field. He was the keystone of a defense that held one of the most potent offenses in the league to 83 points in their building.
This was not putting up an efficient 28/8/6 against the Suns in February. This was the most important day of the season (so far). This was Giannis turning an expected loss into the most fun Bucks road game since 2001.
But the Bucks thrived with him and they thrived without him. Greg Monroe rebounded. Khris Middleton distributed. Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell hit threes. When Giannis went to the bench after picking up his fourth foul late in the third quarter, the game was tied. When he came back, the Bucks were up five.
Giannis is almost sure to have a game in this series where he does not play as well. But he is also likely to have a better game or two, too. The Bucks didn’t simply steal a win because of an unusually exceptional Giannis game. The Raptors didn’t get that game out of the way.
Even after the Game 1 win on the road, the Bucks probably have something like a 50/50 shot to take the series. Toronto might still be the foremost challenger to Cleveland in the conference.
The problem facing the Raptors – and the rest of the East – is that Game 1 was not The Giannis Game. It was simply his first playoff game since he transformed into a superstar. He played like what he is, which is one of the top seven or eight players in the NBA. There might be a game that is The Giannis Game eventually, and you will feel it. But it probably won’t be in 2017. And it will be some weeks – maybe months – after round one. In the meantime, I will take a Giannis game every damn day.