Devin Booker thought ‘we’re in good shape’ as Giannis Antetokounmpo shot potential game-winner

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Dan Feldman
·3 min read
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Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 47 points on the Suns last night.

But he missed a game-winning jumper as time expired in the Bucks’ 125-124 loss.

Phoenix guard Devin Booker – who added rim protection as Deandre Ayton defended Antetokounmpo’s last drive – candidly described his thoughts on the final play.

Kellan Olsen of 98.7 Arizona Sports:

Booker:

That we’re in good shape.

Any time you can stay in front of him and force him to take shots like that, you just have to live with it. You can’t guard everything, and obviously, he’s a force in that paint area and gave us trouble all night. But if you keep him out of there – and Deandre did a good job of cutting him off and forcing him into that – we’ll live with the result.

This sounds harsh.

It’s also fair.

Antetokounmpo is an excellent overall player. But his jumper is a major limitation – especially in clutch situations and especially when compared to other superstars. Yes, this is nitpicking the back-to-back reigning MVP. But Antetokounmpo has put himself on a level where his flaws get micro-analyzed. They could be the difference between a championship and not.

If anything, Booker was being too kind. An Antetokounmpo jumper was not merely a tolerable outcome for Phoenix relative to other possibilities. It was a good outcome for Phoenix.

Though there’s something to be said for Antetokounmpo just finding ways to lead his team to victory, that shot is so far outside his comfort zone. There’s an idea a team’s best player should always shoot game-winning attempts. But that’s not always true – especially when the top player, like Antetokounmpo, holds that title for reasons other than quick-shot creation. The Bucks would’ve been better off going to Khris Middleton, who was open in the corner.

This feels like an inflection point for Milwaukee.

Antetokounmpo often plays well enough to avoid crunch time altogether. But sometimes, the Bucks can’t just blow out their opponent. That’s increasingly true deep in the playoffs. They must establish a better game plan for these situations.

Ideally, that’d come through Antetokounmpo improving.

There has been outsized attention paid to Antetokounmpo’s 3-point shooting. Sure, it’d be nice if he shot better from beyond the arc. But these mid-rangers are more important to his development.

Antetokounmpo tried to get all the way to the rim against the Suns, but they stonewalled him. At that point, he’s not running back beyond the arc to hoist a 3-pointer. If he improves his in-between shots, that’d allow him to first attempt his best offensive skill – attacking the rim – then immediately pivot into something else if stymied.

Antetokounmpo keeps learning these lessons. But he has shown determination to grow from them. Clearly, it’s still a work in progress.

Which is OK, considering it’s just a February loss to Phoenix.

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Devin Booker thought ‘we’re in good shape’ as Giannis Antetokounmpo shot potential game-winner originally appeared on NBCSports.com