Buckle Up: All Signs Point To Giannis Returning To The Floor For The Biggest Game Of The Bucks Season

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Given the way the Bucks blew out the Heat in Game 2, my guess is they approached Game 3 with the idea that they found something against MIA without Giannis and could probably steal Game 3 while allowing him a little more time to rest and recover. He may not be 100%, so I can understand trying to sneak a game.

Unfortunately, this happened

An absolute ass kicking which immediately changed the vibe of this series. Through 3 games we're seeing a lot of the same issues for the Bucks as they tried to survive without their best player. They allowed a ton of open 3PA, their wing defense is a disaster, and even Jrue Holiday is getting cooked by Duncan Robinson

After setting an NBA record for three point shooting in Game 2, things came back down to earth for MIL, and for a team that can't shoot in MIA, they're sneaky 3rd in the playoffs in 3PM (15.7) and 1st in the NBA in 3P% (50%). Anyone who watches this team play knows how utterly insane that is, but until the Bucks figure out their defense, this will continue to be a problem.

The good news? They're getting a pretty valuable piece back tonight

On some level, you don't want to overreact. But falling behind 3-1 would be a disaster for the Bucks. Had they won Game 3, my guess is Giannis is still getting his rest. But now with their backs against the wall, you can't exactly risk it. It's not exactly rocket science to suggest that everything about the Bucks on both ends of the floor is drastically different with Giannis playing, and I think that's true even if he's at like 75%. 

The question of course will be, what happens the first time he deals with contact? Back injuries are tricky to the point where one bad fall can really mess you up. I'm interested to see how Giannis' movement looks, how aggressive he is, what his lateral quickness is defensively, how he does from the FT line etc. 

This will also allow Bobby Portis to slide back into his normal role which he's thrived in all season, and will surely help the Bucks rebounding issues that we saw in Game 3 (44-37). Plus, it's just more fun to watch playoff games when the good players are actually on the floor. I think it's fair to say that few players make more of a singular difference than Giannis given what he does on both ends, and that's what makes tonight so intriguing. The Heat haven't had to deal with Giannis outside of the first like 5 minutes of Game 1. You'll remember, they did pretty well in that first shift, but now they're without Tyler Herro. 

That's why momentum can be a funny thing. Maybe the Heat are going to be able to ride this wave to the point where a 75-80% healthy Giannis doesn't matter. Maybe it ends up being a reminder of just how much better the Bucks are, and they regain homecourt. The stakes for both sides could not be bigger, which is what everyone should want this time of year.

It almost feels like if the Heat don't win tonight, this series is a wrap. The same is true with MIL. In the playoffs, when you have a chance to bury these generational talents, you have to do it. The Kings just learned what a mistake that is in their series, and now the Heat have the same challenge. The second you give the Bucks life, you're asking for trouble. I can say that as someone who watched a team repeatedly give the Bucks life in a playoff series.

For a series that many thought would be over in 4, it just goes to show that in the playoffs, you can never assume. These games aren't played on paper. Now let's see if the Heat can pull off the prayer.