Giannis vs. Kawhi Personal Matchup is Overblown
National media loves itself a storyline. Look, I get it. They have to get people to care about the sport or the event that’s happening especially when they need an angle to drive attention to it. Case in point, the national media’s desire to make a personal matchup between Giannis Antetokounmpo versus Kawhi Leonard a thing before the Toronto Raptors-Milwaukee Bucks series which starts on Wednesday night. From the local side of things, the smarter people in Bucks Twitter refuted the points being made by others that this will be a storyline in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Kawhi was attributed as guarding Giannis in 32 possessions in the regular season.
Going through film earlier in the year, the number was mostly on off-ball switches with the action away from them.
Lots of noise.
— Dean Maniatt (@AllTheBucks) May 13, 2019
This is the matchup that everyone will focus on because they are the two best players on the court. But the two will not see much of each other. Sure, there will be times where Kawhi and Giannis will be matched up against each other, yet, it will likely not be a whole game. Leonard is one of the best defenders in basketball, but he can not compete with Antetokounmpo for a full 48 minutes. I’m not sure anyone can at this point. Giannis will wear down Leonard just like he has the others throughout the playoffs and regular season. Giannis will likely have to worry about Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka versus Leonard. Khris Middleton does not get praise for his defensive work, but he actually did pretty well versus the Raptors forward.
Middleton guarded Kawhi 64% of the time (143 poss)
Held him to 36 points on 11-27 shooting (just 3-4 from 3) and committed 5 shooting fouls.
Kawhi had 7 assists and 2 turnovers
Raptors had a 111.8 oRTG
— Mike Zavagno (@MZavagno11) May 13, 2019
There have been comments about ‘playoff Kawhi’ and look, I get it. The dude is fucking nails. But guess who else had the adjective ‘playoff’ in front of him? Kyrie Irving. What did he do? Absolutely nothing versus the Bucks. There has yet to be a player who has succeeded against this Bucks defense. With Giannis and everything they do on offense, Milwaukee’s defensive efforts get zero credit. It is a shame. They’ve been a top three defense in the league all season and deserve more credit than they get from fans and media.
Giannis and Kawhi are the stars of the show, but they will not see much of each other at a personal level.