Without Khris Middleton, Giannis can prove he’s the NBA MVP

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Chicago Bulls, Khris Middleton, one of the Bucks’ best and most important players, suffered a sprained MCL.

The Bucks lost the contest, 114-110, and their chances of repeating as NBA world champions grew murky, especially with the series moving to Illinois.

Middleton is expected to be out for at least two weeks, which means he could possibly miss the entire next round of the playoffs if Milwaukee gets there.

But without him, the Bucks outscored the Bulls in Game 3, 111-81, and although Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t have one of his greatest games, he made his presence felt.

This is his chance to prove he’s truly worthy of the National Basketball Association’s MVP award, no matter how the ballot for the honor goes.

Antetokounmpo already has very good arguments to be the best in the world

The Greek Freak has already won two regular season MVP awards and the NBA Finals MVP last year, and his numbers and performances this season allow him to win the 2021-22 MVP trophy.

He averaged 29.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocked shots per game this year while shooting 55.3% of his shots from the field.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid may be more dominant at the low post, and Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokić, last year’s MVP winner, is a better passer, but Antetokounmpo is a better all-rounder than the two at each end of the floor.

In Game 3 on Friday, he was relatively quiet, contributing 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, seven rebounds and nine assists in 29 minutes, which seems like a low number by his standards.

But his best was unnecessary, as the Bucks took a 33-17 lead late in the first quarter and never looked back.

After taking a 2-1 series lead and regaining home-court advantage, Milwaukee is back in control of this series, and given that the Bulls apparently don’t know how to win or close yet, maybe ‘Antetokounmpo won’t be kicking things into high gear for a while.

Next round could be Antetokounmpo’s opportunity

If the Bucks get past the Bulls, they’ll face the Boston Celtics or Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Both teams feature a pair of talented, skilled stars who can score points in bunches: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for the Celtics, and Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant for the Nets.

Additionally, the Celtics have one of the best defenses in professional basketball, while Brooklyn has several complementary role players who can hurt their opponent, such as Seth Curry and Patty Mills.

Middleton is unlikely to be able to return for the start of either potential clash, Antetokounmpo will be up against two other MVP-caliber players in Tatum and Durant.

If he tops them, or at least draws them, while leading the Bucks to a series advantage or winning when Middleton is cleared to play, Antetokounmpo will make an undeniable impression on everyone’s minds.

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