Giannis joins Jordan, Shaq, LeBron in NBA Finals history

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MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – JULY 11: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks celebrates during the second half in Game Three of the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns at Fiserv Forum on July 11, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Justin Casterline/Getty Images/AFP

Giannis Antetokounmpo joined an elite list of stars with back-to-back 40-point NBA Finals performances, but the Greek star forward stressed Sunday that “I’m no Michael Jordan.”

Antetokounmpo became only the sixth player in NBA Finals history with 40 points in consecutive games, hitting 41 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a 120-100 Bucks victory over Phoenix.

Milwaukee pulled within 2-1 in the best-of-seven championship series while the 26-year-old Greek forward, who had 42 points in a game-two loss, put himself on a select NBA list.

The two-time NBA Most Valuable Player joined Jordan, Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal, Rick Barry and LeBron James with consecutive 40-point NBA Finals performances.

When asked if he would threaten Jordan’s four 40-point games in a row, Antetokounmpo stressed he wasn’t Jordan and added, “All I care about right now, it’s getting one more (win), that’s all, just take care of business, doing our job.”

Bucks forward Khris Middleton was not amazed to see Antetokounmpo dominate two weeks after suffering a hyperextended left knee and missing two games.

“He has been doing this since I’ve been here,” Middleton said. “Now it’s on the biggest stage and everybody is getting a chance to see what he goes through, how he’s hurt and he still finds a way to go out there and compete and be productive and be dominant at the same time.

“When he’s rolling like he was these past two games, we know we have to just give him the ball and see what he can do.”

Bucks reserve Bobby Portis, who excelled when Antetokounmpo went down, said his success is a reward from the “Basketball God” for his work ethic.

“Giannis is a relentless hard worker and gives his all to the team, and he’s selfless,” Portis said.

“When you play like that and you want to win, I think the Basketball God just always rewards you. He never cheats the game. He stays in the gym, he lifts weights hard every day.

“When you’re humble and hungry like that, it just always just comes back to you. And for a guy to hyperextend his knee less than two weeks ago, and to come back and do the things he’s doing, man, I think it just speaks for itself.

“Whoever gave him the nickname ‘Greek Freak’ did a great job. It’s different how he’s playing out there and doing all these different things. That’s just rare. That’s really special of him.”

Antetokounmpo recalled how he was fearful his season might be over after his injury earlier this month.

“My knee was double the size, so a little bit worried but when I got the MRI, they told me I have a chance to come back, even though I’m not 100 per cent. I was extremely happy,” he recalled.

“I’m going to compete as hard as possible and do the right thing to help my team have the opportunity to win any game we play.”

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said the team plays better when Antetokounmpo plays better, no matter what the statistics are.

“We’re at our best when Giannis is at his best,” Budenholzer said. “He’s a great playmaker, screener, passer and he does so many great things. When he’s conscious of doing a little bit of everything, he’s very capable and that’s when he’s at his best.”

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