The Brooklyn Nets beat the Milwaukee Bucks to take a 3-2 series lead on Tuesday. They did it with Kevin Durant playing one of the best games ever and in doing so, they really made it look like Giannis Antotenkounmpo will never be the guy to lead a team to a title.
Yes, this is a wild overreaction. Giannis is only 26 years-old. The Bucks haven't even been eliminated yet! Durant is going to be exhausted after playing 48 minutes, James Harden could tweak his hamstring and Jeff Green could start missing shots again. The Bucks can still win this series!
But at this point, after already winning two MVP awards, he probably should have figured out a way to take over a game by now. On paper it looks like he can do it, but the reality is he still can't. And seeing KD do exactly that on the same court last night makes it so clear how far away Giannis is.
On paper his game looked great. He played 42 minutes and scored 34 points on 22 shots. He even did exactly what he's supposed to do to keep defenders honest by knocking down two of four three point attempts.
But he finished the game missing two of four free throws in the final minutes and turned the ball over on what should have been the tying basket with just over a minute remaining. He took a fadeaway jumper over a hobbled James Harden.
There's obviously a lot of career left, but as awesome as Giannis is, he just looks so limited when things get tight. It's probably unfair, but that's what we do. If you want to be considered the best player in the world, you have to look like Durant did last night. You have to look like LeBron James did last year or Kawhi Leonard does when the Clippers' backs are against the wall.
Then there's the defensive issues. Giannis looks like the perfect guy to guard Kevin Durant. He was first team All-Defense this season for the fourth time. He was the Defensive Player of the Year last season. You might want to use that in the fourth quarter against the human flamethrower burning your season to the ground.
How much of that falls on Giannis? After the game he said he would welcome the challenge if the coach asked him so do we blame Coach Bud for this?
This is Year 3. They made the Eastern Conference Finals in Year 1 and if they don't win the next two games they are going in the wrong direction. Giannis isn't going anywhere after signing a max extension last offseason. Eventually something is going to have to change.
Maybe another coach can unlock Giannis' clutch gene. Or maybe just this one more failure will open everyone's eyes to the truth within. Who knows? Giannis has a lot of time to figure this out.
It really is too early to say he can't win a title. Michael Jordan and LeBron James were both 27 when they broke through. There's still time! It's just that until it does happen, it feels like it never will.