Not for the first time this postseason the Milwaukee Bucks found themselves on the precipice of major trouble.
Trailing 2-0 and then 3-2 against Brooklyn, tied 2-2 against Atlanta with Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined, this Bucks team has found a way to respond.
With that being said, a 3-0 deficit against this Phoenix Suns team would have been a mountain too high for anyone to climb, making Game 3 an absolute must-win.
Milwaukee would answer the call, behind the latest historic performance from Antetokounmpo, with the 26-year-old delivering a 41-point, 13-rebound classic, as the Bucks stormed their way back into the NBA Finals.
"He's a great playmaker, he's a great passer, he's a great screener," head coach Mike Budenholzer said postgame.
MORE: Player Ratings for Game 3
"He does so many things and I think when he's conscious of doing a little bit of everything he's very capable and that's when he's at his best."
Giannis DOMINATED.- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 12, 2021
41 PTS | 13 REB | 6 AST | 61% FG pic.twitter.com/BEpSsXsrYm
Antetokounmpo has now topped 40 points in three out of five meetings against the Suns this season, with Phoenix failing to come up with any answers to slow him down around the basket.
The physical domination from Antetokounmpo is even more staggering when only a week ago the Milwaukee superstar's status for the rest of the season was up in the air due to a gruesome hyperextension of his left knee in Game 4 against Atlanta.
"I wasn't upset. At the moment when the incident happened I was a little bit worried," Antetokounmpo admitted.
"My knee was double its size but afterwards when I got the MRI and knew I have a chance to come back I was extremely happy, it gave me a chance. That's all I can ask for. I'm happy to be out there win or lose."
"Everybody works so hard to be in this moment, me personally I'm not trying to make it about me. I was happy to have the chance to come back and enjoy and play with my teammates no matter what the outcome is."
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After testing the strength of his knee in Game 1 with a ho-hum 20-point, 17-rebound effort, it's been full steam ahead for Antetokounmpo, who has dropped consecutive 40-point games, with Michael Jordan's streak of four straight a talking point postgame.
"I'm not Michael Jordan. All I care about right now is getting one more. Take care of business and doing our job," he shrugged.
Unlike Game 2, the two-time MVP had help, with Jrue Holiday producing a slump-busting 21-point effort including 5-for-10 shooting beyond the arc.
Lockdown D and a 20-piece from Jrue:- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 12, 2021
21 PTS | 9 AST | 5 REB | 50% 3PT pic.twitter.com/nsP9NWSMYx
"Part of it is being home but just staying aggressive. The guys tell me to continue to be aggressive because that's what's going to be best for our team. A shooter going through a slump, continue to shoot and that's what I did," said Holiday.
"It's just about being consistent and believing in yourself. I work on those every day so I think to be able to step into those, have a rhythm dribble, it's fairly easy. They're leaving me open too, so I have to shoot them."
For the Bucks, the win marks the start of a long road back, with a 2-0 deficit initially requiring Milwaukee to win four out of five against a Phoenix team full of confidence.
MORE: Foul trouble in Game 3 shows Ayton's importance
"There's no excuses. We knew what kind of game this was going to be. I knew what type of game I was going to come to the arena and face. Mentally, I was ready to play 48 minutes and do whatever it takes to win that game," said Antetokounmpo.
"We got better from Game 1 to Game 2 and now to Game 3. We've just got to keep building. Keep making winning plays and keep working together. I got to watch the clips with the team but for right now, I feel like we got better and hopefully we can keep doing that. I feel like as a team we did that in every series."
Giannis on enjoying the journey. 💯#NBAFinals presented by YouTube TV- NBA (@NBA) July 12, 2021
Game 4: Wednesday, 9 PM ET, ABC pic.twitter.com/b8UEMHXhBB
The NBA Finals are alive and Antetokounmpo's series is morphing into the major story. For longtime teammate Khris Middleton, the dominance is hardly a surprise for a man who has had a front-row seat for eight years.
"I've been with him for years and I've seen him do a lot of stuff like this. It doesn't really surprise me. Now it's on the biggest stage every body is getting a chance to see what he goes through, how he's hurt and still finds a way to compete and be productive and dominant at the same time," said Middleton.
First-year Buck Bobby Portis was a little more animated in his description. Shaking his head with a massive smile surfacing across his face.
"I don't even know how he's doing it. Most of the time when guys do that, they come back and ease into it. He's still going out there playing the same way like he never even did it," Portis explained.
"I think whoever gave him the nickname the Greek Freak did a great job of that. That's just rare, that's really special of him to put his body on the line for the team. It's fun playing with him but he's an even better person off the court. It's a joy being around him every day."
After two nights off the Bucks will have a chance to tie the NBA Finals at 2-2 back in Fiserv Forum.
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