The Bucks are first to round two, and are looking like the team to beat (sorry, Nets)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are the first team through to round two of the NBA playoffs.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are the first team through to round two of the NBA playoffs.
Image: Getty Images

For whatever reason, the Milwaukee Bucks completed Game 4 of Round 1 before the Philadelphia 76ers even began Game 3 of their series.

In any event, they swept last season’s Eastern Conference Champion Miami Heat, who looked exhausted the entire series after giving seemingly everything they had. At a later date, we could contextualize how having seven weeks between last season’s NBA Finals and this season’s training camp start date might have impacted the Heat looking exhausted while getting beaten down by Milwaukee, but for now, let’s focus on those Bucks.

They outscored Miami 365-285, after squeezing out Game 1 in overtime and disallowing the Heat from getting comfortable offensively the entire series. They now have earned an extended break ahead of their pending showdown, presumably with the Brooklyn Nets… assuming the Boston Celtics don’t shock the hell out of us and them.

It’s worth noting that Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t even have an awesome series, which is entirely a testament to the level his teammates are at now compared to their previous two seasons, highlighted by memorable playoff failures: 2020 in particular. Sure, he averaged gaudy counting stats with 23.5 points, 15.0 rebounds, and 7.8 assists, but he only had 46 / 4 (!!) / 63 shooting splits. He was aided by the massive upgrade of Jrue Holiday over Eric Bledsoe impacting their perimeter defense, Brook Lopez neutralizing Bam Adebayo in Games 1-3, PJ Tucker’s veteran presence and switchability, the three-point shooting driven by Bryn Forbes, gifted sixth-man Bobby Portis, and, of course, his underrated No. 2, Khris Middleton.


Against the Nets, against whom they went 2-1 in the regular season, Giannis averaged 39.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists, headlined by a 49-point showing opposite Kevin Durant’s 42 points and 10 rebounds. Both Nets losses were without James Harden, which is worth mentioning along with the absence of Donte DiVincenzo, but given the extra few days of rest and game-planning, the Bucks are not only better equipped for Brooklyn than anyone in the Eastern Conference (possibly save the 76ers), but they’ll be able to effectively craft their strategy as Nets-Celtics continues.