With his status up in the air until shortly before tip time, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who missed Games 5 and 6 of the Eastern Conference finals with a hyperextended knee, was in the starting lineup for the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.
All things considered, Antetokounmpo looked good from the jump. No noticeable limp. He was attacking with force. Milwaukee's first possession was an alley-oop as Giannis rolled hard and exploded to the rim and drew a foul.
Antetokounmpo finished the first half with a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds), but the play that most illustrated that his knee is OK was an incredible chase-down block on Mikal Bridges in the second quarter:
GIANNIS SUPERHUMAN BLOCK 🤯 pic.twitter.com/5nbETqLGmc— ESPN (@espn) July 7, 2021
You hear Jeff Van Gundy on the call saying "this is reminiscent of LeBron James in Cleveland against Golden State" as the replay shows, and he's right. That block was really similar to the block James had on Andre Iguodala in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals.
The difference, of course, is that this is Game 1. Giannis' block didn't potentially decide a championship, as James' did. But the block itself was indeed reminiscent. The speed to make up ground from behind. The timing of the takeoff. The length and athleticism to make the actual block at the height of his leap, making contact with the ball inches before it hits the glass to avoid the goaltending call. An amazing play by an amazing athlete.