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Thon Maker attributes recent surge to Kevin Garnett motivational video

BOSTON -- Milwaukee Bucks big man Thon Maker is in the midst of a playoff renaissance, something he has attributed in part to an Instagram video by Kevin Garnett.

After only a few seconds of playing time in Milwaukee's first two games against the Boston Celtics, Maker has responded with 22 points, 10 blocks and 7 rebounds combined over the past two games. Those performances helped the Bucks tie the series at 2-2 heading into Tuesday's Game 5 in Boston.

Maker mentioned the video, which Garnett made as part of his "Area 21" show on TNT, as one of the reasons behind his turnaround. Garnett's video shows various clips of the future Hall of Famer getting pumped up during moments in his career.

"He posted it on his Instagram, and somebody showed it to me," Maker said after Tuesday's shootaround. "And then I watched it and I sent it back to him and told him how motivational it was and said I liked it. So then we started talking."

Garnett has spent the past two seasons working out with Maker and the Bucks at various points throughout the season, and the video served as another reminder for Maker of just how much intensity is needed on the postseason stage.

"The biggest thing is having that attack mindset on both ends of the floor," Maker said. "With him, he doesn't care who you are in front of him if you're playing against him. On the defensive end, [defending] your shot and protecting your teammates. The biggest thing when it comes to your teammates, him dealing with his teammates, was always touching a guy, telling him, 'Stay up' -- keeping the guys positive.

"And then on the offensive end, just getting everybody involved, but also looking to attack because his man would be back. That's what he was telling me: 'If your man is back, shoot it. And tell them, How dare you back off?'"

Maker's energy has sparked the Bucks in recent days and has been huge after John Henson had to sit out the past two games because of back soreness.

With Henson out again on Tuesday, Maker and veteran Tyler Zeller will be counted on to maintain the momentum the group has enjoyed recently. Despite his struggles throughout the season, the Bucks' confidence in Maker has never wavered.

"It came from last year, really," Bucks swingman Khris Middleton said. "He started tons of games for us last year, started in the playoffs for us last year and he played well in his rookie year. This year he's been up and down, I don't know why, but when he's gotten in the game [in the playoffs], he's produced. That's where the confidence is coming from. We've all seen him before."

Maker certainly hasn't shied away from the moment. After several blocks in Games 3 and 4 in Milwaukee, he expressed his joy toward the crowd and celebrated, emotions that permeated throughout the rest of his team.

"Thon loves the big moments, and he just finds a way to get it done," Bucks point guard Matthew Dellavedova said after Game 3. "I'm happy for him because he's continued to work hard and be a great teammate and stay ready. He deserves what he gets."

Middleton knows that Garnett's influence has been crucial in Maker's development. The organization is hopeful that his recent performances can be a springboard into a big season next year.

"When you've got a guy like KG in your corner talking to you, giving you tips on your game, and coming to work out with you ... he's one of the best players that's ever played the game," Middleton said. "The intensity that he brings to the floor -- you can see Thon is getting up front with himself. There's no reason he shouldn't bring that with a guy like that in his corner."

At 21, Maker is still trying to find stability within his own game. With the ability to communicate with Garnett whenever Maker needs some guidance, he knows he's on the right track toward becoming the stabilizing presence the Bucks need him to be in the future.

"He's been big," Maker said. "And not just for me, but also for other guys like Giannis [Antetokounmpo]. He spoke with Khris a few times. But just us as a team, if he's coming to influence some of us and we put it together, it helps us because we have that same mentality as a team."