Giannis Antetokounmpo ‘limited’ in what he can do

Al Harrington, the former Knick and Orange, N.J., native, wonders if Giannis Antetokounmpo will ever become a sensational playoff performer along the lines of Kevin Durant.

Antetokounmpo has made the conference finals just once in his eight-year career despite winning back-to-back MVP awards in 2019 and 2020. Earlier this week, Antetokounmpo was named first-team All-NBA for the third straight year — the only player to be named on all 100 ballots.

His playoff history, however, has been checkered without ever making the NBA Finals. He has been a nightmare from 3-point range and the free-throw line in these playoffs.

Harrington, who retired in 2014 and played for the Knicks from 2008-10, said it’s easier to game-plan against the Bucks superstar in the postseason.

“Giannis, as great as he is, he’s very limited,’’ Harrington said on “The Bakari Sellers Podcast” on Wednesday. “Why he’s so good is because all season he plays somebody once every couple of months, so you don’t really get a chance to game plan for him, so all that dribbling full court and dunking works.

Al Harrington claims that the "Greek Freak" lacks versatility.
Al Harrington claims that the “Greek Freak” lacks versatility.

“Now, it’s a series and his opponent can pay attention to all your weaknesses, like, ‘We know you can’t go left, we know you can’t shoot the 3,’ you’re going to get exposed every time in a series.”

Those are pretty strong remarks considering Antetokoumpo still is averaging 27.4 points and 13.3 rebounds in nine playoff games this year entering Thursday. However, this is a 3-point shooting league and “The Greek Freak’’ has dipped from shooting 30.3 percent in the regular season to 17.1 percent in the playoffs.

His free-throw shooting is at 52.2 percent and he missed two keys ones down the stretch in the Game 5 collapse in Brooklyn that had the Nets up 3-2 entering Thursday’s Game 6.

The Nets are not guarding him at the 3-point line unless he picks up his dribble, and it’s not a big secret Antetokounmpo powers to the basket on his strong hand. He appears at times to be pressing so much that he has backpedaled a few steps so he can get a bigger head of steam when he attempts to drive past the likes of Blake Griffin and Jeff Green.

The Nets haven’t yet employed a “Hack-A-Giannis” tactic, as the Hawks are doing in their Eastern Conference semifinal series now that Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons appears mentally psyched out from the free-throw line.

In Antetokoumpo’s defense, he does not look intimidated about going to the free-throw line and seems to wants the ball. He had scored 30-plus points in each of the last three contests.

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer has adjusted in the past two games, getting “The Greek Freak’’ away from isolation at the top of the 3-point arc. He’s getting more opportunities off the drive and finishing other actions.

Nevertheless peak Antetokoumpo isn’t up to peak Durant, James Harden or Kyrie Irving, according to Harrington. Each of the Nets’ Big 3 has a multi-faceted offensive game.

“Healthy Brooklyn versus everyone else isn’t even close,’’ Harrington said. “When you think about playoff basketball historically, it’s when the game slows down … that means people are getting stops. But when you have three monsters that are 1-on-1 wizards and are elite at what they do … of course they have to play defense, but the other team has to play defense for real.”

Budenholzer is still struggling to find the perfect rotation in this series. In Game 5, he didn’t play key sixth man Bobby Portis, a former Knick. Budenholzer is increasing the role of former Notre Dame standout Pat Connaughton to give the Bucks more 3-point shooting, likely because of Antetokounmpo’s slump.

“We’ll see,’’ Budenholzer said on whether Portis gets another chance. “The rotations tighten up. As the series gets deeper. Spreading the court a little bit more, more perimeter guys getting secondary action. More DHOs [dribble handoffs]. Bobby will be ready. He’s been really good for us this year. He’s ready and anxious to help us and can help us.’’

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