The Milwaukee Bucks are NBA champions, and their first title in 50 years came with a 50-point performance from Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who led his team to a 105-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of The Finals.
It was not a normal season, and there will be a lot of “what ifs” in regard to injuries suffered in the playoffs. But the Bucks are deserved NBA champions and Antetokounmpo is a one-of-a-kind superstar.
One stat stood out from the rest as the two-time MVP wrote another chapter of his incredible story.
16.9 — Restricted-area points per game in the playoffs from Giannis Antetokounmpo.
That’s the second-highest playoff average for any player in the 25 years for which we have shot-location data, topped only by Shaquille O’Neal’s 18.6 restricted area points per game in 1998, when his Lakers lost in the conference finals. Antetokounmpo’s 177 total restricted area buckets are 24 more than any player has had in those 25 postseasons.
Antetokounmpo is a flawed player; his jump shot is not good. In the regular season, his effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint was just 41.6%, a mark which ranked 195th among 201 players with at least 200 attempts from the outside. And in the playoffs, his effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint was 30.3%. He was 19-for-57 (33%) from mid-range and a remarkable 13-for-70 (19%) from 3-point range. Only one player (Lindsey Hunter, 8-for-53 in 2001) has shot worse on at least 50 3-point attempts in a single postseason.
We always hear, “When he starts making those shots, yadda yadda yadda.” Well, he still hasn’t started making those shots, and he just had one of the most dominant Finals performances we’ve ever seen. Of Antetokounmpo’s 50 points in Game 6, 30 came in the lane (10-for-12 in the restricted area, 5-for-7 elsewhere in the paint) and another 17 came at the free throw line. The 30 points in the paint are tied for the third most for any player in any playoff game in the last 20 years.
Antetokounmpo scored 50 points while shooting 1-for-6 from outside the paint. That he missed only two of his 19 free throw attempts in the biggest game of his life (having shot 56% in the playoffs prior to Tuesday) only adds to the legend.
For the series, the Suns shot much better from mid-range than the Bucks (51.3% vs. 38.4%). Phoenix also shot better from 3-point range (38.4% vs. 35.3%). But Milwaukee overcame that with total dominance inside, outscoring the Suns by 11 points per game in the restricted area, with a lot of that dominance being a product of transition opportunities and work on the glass. On fast-break points and second-chance points, the Bucks outscored the Suns by 13 points per contest.
The league’s 3-point rate has risen in each of the last 10 seasons (from 22.2% in 2010-11 to 39.2% this season), and it was higher in these playoffs (39.5%) than it was in the regular season. Milwaukee ranked 14th of 16 teams in playoff 3-point percentage, making just 32.1% of their shots from beyond the arc, where Antetokounmpo wasn’t the only Buck who struggled.
But the most important shots on the floor remain those at the basket. And sometimes, it isn’t a make-or-miss league. Milwaukee led the playoffs in both restricted area points per game (36.3) and (fewest) opponent restricted area points per game (23.6). And most of the credit goes to the player who dominates at the basket like nobody in the last 20 years.
Points scored by area, 2021 Finals
|Total in paint||294||248||+46||+7.7|
|Total outside paint||274||318||-44||-7.3|
|Fast break points||97||56||+41||+6.8|
|2nd chance points||91||54||+37||+6.2|
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