As playoffs begin, Giannis Antetokounmpo knows Bucks’ zone offense has improved
Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks is arguably the single most unstoppable force currently in the NBA. Transition defenses are relegated to mere bowling pins once he corrals a miss and goes coast to coast for a rim-rattling jam or a nifty layup. The best perimeter defenders fly like rag dolls when he puts his head down and goes to the rack. It’s no surprise that the presumptive 2019 league Most Valuable Player is leading in points-in-the-paint per game with a staggering 17.5 points, trumping other point-blank scorers specifically centers.
So how exactly do teams deal with an anomaly such as the Greek Freak? The easy answer is to turn to a scheme that was introduced to combat the last player to dominate The Association in such fashion: the Zone Defense, in response to the Los Angeles Lakers’ Shaquille O’Neal.
While Antetokounmpo’s jumpers have steadily improved, it’s still better to allow him to take those instead of the alternative of allowing him to waltz in the paint – and the zone has been successful in doing that. Speaking to Eric Nehm of The Athletic, the 6-foot-11 forward described how it initially gave the Bucks problems since they did not plan for it in the summer.
“The game slows down. We want to play fast. We want to play in the flow of our offense with five guys spaced. Now, in a zone, you gotta attack. Someone’s gotta go to the middle. Now, you look at each other, who’s going to the middle? It’s hard.”
“Coming into the season, we didn’t work on a lot of zone offense because nobody really played zone that much,” Antetokounmpo said. “Now, we’ve been working on it more. Now, we’ve been way better.”
But the 24-year-old is quick to point out that but they have been successful against it of late
“The first game against Miami where they played zone, we lost it. Second game at home, we were ready. First game at home with Brooklyn, we were ready. We’re better at it now.”
For their sake, the Detroit Pistons should pray that they keep missing those shots or it’s going to be a breezy first-round for the top seed.