Giannis Antetokounmpo is finding it harder to focus and stay in the moment as his team, the Milwaukee Bucks are on the verge of their first NBA title in 50 years after they won the fifth game of the NBA Finals series to take a 3-2 lead against the Phoenix Suns.
The 26-year-old Greek star forward, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, can move beyond past playoff failures and win his first crown with a victory in Tuesday's sixth game of the NBA Finals at Milwaukee.
Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to the NBA's best record the previous two seasons only to see Milwaukee make disappointing playoff exits, dropping four in a row to Toronto in 2019 and losing to NBA runner-up Miami in 2020.
"It means a lot. But I can't get too carried away. I have to stay in the present. I can't worry about the outcome. We know what the deal is. It's one game away from being an NBA champ, being in the history of this game, being always there. Nobody can take that away from you. It's going to be big. ,” Antetokounmpo said.
The Bucks can win their first crown since 1971 at home before a noisy sellout crowd, with 25,000 more people packing the "Deer District" and watching on screens outside the arena, if they beat the Suns for the fourth time in a row after initially going down 2-0 in the best of seven series.
"It's going to be amazing to do it in front of our fans. But there are more steps until we get there. We've got to focus. We've got to watch the clips and see what we did well, what we didn't do well, what can we do better. When the game starts, we have to take it a possession at a time and hopefully, we can be in a position to win,” Antetokounmpo said.
"We don't stop. Usually, when you're down 0-2, you stop competing in a way. But this team, we don't do that. We keep coming, keep competing."
Milwaukee's Jrue Holiday said control during an emotional roller coaster is vital.
"We've really just got to lock in, not get too high, not get too low. You've got to give it your all. At this point there are no excuses," Holiday said.
The Bucks could become only the fifth team to win the title after losing the first two games of the finals, joining the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers, 2006 Miami Heat, 1977 Portland Trail Blazers and 1969 Boston Celtics. The rare feat would put Antetokounmpo among some of the NBA's greatest legends, including LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade, and record 11-time champion Bill Russell.
The Suns, who dropped game five at home on Saturday, must win Tuesday to force a winner-take-all seventh game Thursday at Phoenix as they chase the first title in their 53-year history
"Pressure is a privilege. As hard as it is, this is what you want. You're not going to find greatness on a beach. You're going to find it in the struggle," AFP quoted Suns coach Monty Williams as saying.