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Giannis MVP Watch: Bucks vs. 76ers

Antetokounmpo is at it again with the football moves

Milwaukee Bucks “point forward” Giannis Antetokounmpo is the wild card among the favorites to win the NBA’s MVP award (James Harden, LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the other favorites). Antetokounmpo, a native of Greece who turned 23 in December, is a mixture of the size, speed, lankiness, raw power and finesse that’s only seen in the so-called “unicorns” of the league (New York’s Kristaps Porziņgis and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons). But Antetokounmpo appears to have the most upside of any of those players, and he is slowly nipping at James’ heels for most dominant athlete in the league.

The Undefeated will track Antetokounmpo’s performances that add to his burgeoning MVP candidacy through our “Giannis MVP Watch.” You can catch up on previous entries here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI, Part XII, Part XIII, Part XIV.


What did he do?

Thirty-five points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 block and 2 steals on 60.9 percent shooting in a 118-110 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

Did he dunk on someone?

What does everyone, except maybe Will Smith, do when they see a freight train coming? They move out of the way. You can play hero all you want, but nine times out of 10 that will leave you on a poster or on the stretcher. Making a business decision is always the best option.

After 76ers center Embiid threw the ball away while trying to draw a foul, one of 26 turnovers for Philadelphia on the night, the Bucks got out on transition with guard Eric Bledsoe and Antetokounmpo. The 6-foot-11 forward received the ball from Bledsoe about 2 feet in front of the free throw line and needed just one step to levitate toward the basket, causing 76ers J.J. Redick and Robert Covington to scurry out of the way in fear that they may be turned from men to boys by Freight Train Giannis.

Did he make a crazy play?

The hook-and-ladder (also known as the hook-and-lateral) is a play you’re more likely to see in the Madden video game franchise than on the actual field, let alone a basketball court, but that’s never stopped Antetokounmpo in the past; he hiked the ball through his legs to a teammate earlier this season.

While on a fast break, Antetokounmpo lobbed the ball to running buddy Jabari Parker in the paint from half court, took off as defender Ersan Ilyasova (more on him below) turned his back and caught a no-look pass from Parker at the free throw line (I am sensing a trend here) to dunk it home as Embiid looked on in disbelief.

This was the best give-and-go sequence since Jay-Z and Kanye West on “Otis.”

What was his MVP moment?

Antetokounmpo was a few games away from his MVP hopes being completely demolished. With Harden leading the Houston Rockets to 15 consecutive wins, Anthony Davis logging 40 points a night like he’s Wilt Chamberlain, and LeBron James just being LeBron James, the Bucks forward was slipping out of contention during the team’s four-game slide coming into Sunday. Antetokounmpo averaged just 22.6 points a game in February, his lowest-scoring month of the entire season.

Not to mention, the Bucks went down big early and late against the Sixers, trailing by as many as 20 points in the first half and 19 points in the second.

But, as if he knew his anemic candidacy was on the line, Antetokounmpo saddled up and went to work against Philadelphia, hitting midrange shots and 3-pointers (he went 100 percent on one attempt — progress) and driving to the rim at ease against Embiid and the other bigs. Antetokounmpo scored 14 of his 35 points during a 21-0 run in the third quarter to erase a 19-point lead, and between the first two quarters he helped spark a 30-10 run to climb out of a 41-21 hole to eventually tie the game at 51. This was just the second time in the past 10 years (Oklahoma City Thunder, 2015) that a team has overcome two 15-point deficits in the same game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

One of those baskets during the third-quarter run came at the expense of Ilyasova, who spent his first seven seasons in the league in Milwaukee. The Turkish forward backtracked down the court to guard Antetokounmpo (his first mistake), but Antetokounmpo quickly turned on the jets to not only blow past Ilyasova but also allow him to catch up in the paint, just to barrel over him for the second time on the night.

Antetokounmpo even stunted on the entire 76ers bench, including former teammate Jerryd Bayless.

Martenzie is a senior researcher for The Undefeated. His favorite cinematic moment is when Django said "Y'all want to see somethin?"