Giannis Antetokounmpo put the Milwaukee Bucks on his broad shoulders and hobbled leg on Thursday night, carrying them as far as humanly possible, which was still far shy of a Game 2 victory. His 42-point performance was perhaps the most impressive thing he's ever done in the NBA. Because he had to work at maximum capacity every second he was on the court. It was a labor-intensive effort and he wore the weight openly, always hoping to delay the game a bit longer as he caught his breath. It was equal parts painful and inspiring to watch, even if the Herculean effort yielded nothing but an 0-2 series hole as the series shifts to the Midwest.
The Phoenix Suns are two wins from the first NBA championship in franchise history. They've been in control in virtually all of the 96 minutes played thus far for obvious reasons. Chris Paul has found the Fountain of Youth. Devin Booker is a bonafide stud with ice in his veins. Deandre Ayton has the heart of a winner and body control of a much smaller man. Mikal Bridges simply cannot help himself from helping his team. Jrue Holiday is earning a degree in masonry brick by brick. Khris Middleton hasn't exactly been a marksman either. Brook Lopez is unplayable in most situations. Monty Williams is ever the aggressor and Mike Budenholzer always looks as though he's just been asked to solve a complex word problem without hearing it again.
That's it. That's all the analysis one really needs. There isn't a reservoir of profound nuance needed to understand what's happening in the quest for the Larry O'Brien trophy. Phoenix is playing incredible team basketball and getting contributions from everyone who graces the hardwood. Giannis is being asked to be Superman — and doing a damn good impression — but isn't getting the offensive help he needs.
More simply: Milwaukee is working their asses off for every point and stop. The Suns are playing with an uncommon joy that harkens back to some of those San Antonio Spurs teams who developed perfect chemistry and were greater than the sum of their parts. Look no further than the mesmerizing 10-pass possession near the end of the first half.
It's a microcosm of the beautiful, joyful and not particularly taxing basketball the home team has been playing since, well, the bubble last year. Compare and contrast that to the Bucks, who are essentially hoping Giannis can drag them to a title between deep, exasperated breaths. One approach seems more fun and also more likely to succeed.
Any deep dive into a box score has been superfluous. The story of this series has been body language and vibe. One team is having the time of their lives and has the energy to go the extra mile. One is slowly realizing they're in an impossible situation and grinding their teeth.