Shaquille O’Neal named Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo his successor as “superman” a few years back. It’s a fitting title for the Greek Freak given his otherworldly abilities. However, as arguably his biggest adversary in the East, the Brooklyn Nets are tasked with finding his kryptonite.
It was only a preseason contest, but a few weeks back, they put it only full display at Fiserv Forum.
On paper, Antetokounmpo enjoyed a solid night during that October 12th tune-up game. Those who did not watch the contest and only glanced over the box score are likely saying “what kryptonite” already.
But when you look beyond Antetokounmpo’s 24 points, 14 boards, and four assists, one can see what went wrong for him and what went right for the Nets.
The Brooklyn Nets shut down Giannis Antetokounmpo not too long ago
Blanketed all night, Antetokounmpo struggled to create high percentage looks for himself. He shot just 6-21 from the field. He also turned the rock over four times.
With their past teams lacking much fortitude down low, Antetokounmpo used to tear the Nets up from the inside out. But they addressed that this offseason, developing Nic Claxton into a more resolute center and bringing Ben Simmons into the fold. Although others assisted, those two were largely responsible for Antetokounmpo’s deficiencies. As a result, Brooklyn stormed forward to a 107-97 victory.
But with the regular season now unfolding, the teams will face each other tomorrow night for one that will actually count. With that noted, Brooklyn will aim to replicate their defense against the Greek Freak and prove this new defense system as something strong and consistent rather than a one-game wonder.
After his first two regular season games, Antetokounmpo finds himself averaging 32.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game while hitting from the field at a 70.3 percent clip. So with that said, the Nets will look to do what nobody else has done so far in this young season.
Simmons alone cannot stop him. Claxton alone cannot stop him. But together, these two formed a wall a few nights back that the two-time MVP could not surpass. Call it “only a preseason game” if you want, but Antetokounmpo played 32 minutes in that contest, including some fourth quarter run.
While Antetokounmpo surely would have brought some extra fire had that game mattered, you cannot say that he simply “did not try” out there. Tonight though, we know for sure he will give Brooklyn his best shot. Time to see if the Claxton and Simmons duo is a true nuclear deterrent or another flimsy shield.