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Giannis MVP Watch: Bucks vs. Knicks

Antetokounmpo is becoming a true king of New York

Milwaukee Bucks “point forward” Giannis Antetokounmpo is the wild card among the four 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.


What did he do?

29 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and three steals on 47.6 percent shooting in a 92-90 win over the New York Knicks on Friday night.

Did he dunk on someone?

I copped to Antetokounmpo getting away with traveling two months ago, so no need to relitigate the past. With that said, there’s two things I can’t explain: 1) how the referees miss the call and 2) how Antetokounmpo makes his travels look so good. He catches the pass behind the 3-point line, only takes two (!!) dribbles, and somehow contorts his body around what felt like the five Knicks on the floor plus the entire roster from the 1990s squad. Patrick Ewing felt that dunk in his nonexistent anterior cruciate ligaments.

Poor Lance Thomas thought his “Get Your Roll On” gesture would get the referees to notice the travel, but home court, home rules.

Did he make a crazy play?

Warner Bros. needs to cast Antetokounmpo in the next Ocean’s Eleven movie because this man is the most elite pickpocket in the world. Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. secured a rebound halfway through the third quarter, but just as he thought about doing something with the ball, Antetokounmpo reached his go-go gadget arms around Hardaway, knocked the ball toward the baseline, snatched the ball before going out of bounds by stretching out his arms toward the photographers seated five feet away, grabbed the ball and dunked it home. All Hardaway and Knicks center Enes Kanter could do was solemnly shrug their shoulders and head back up court.

What was his MVP moment?

First things first: Jabari Parker is BACK. The fourth-year forward returned to the court for the first time in 51 weeks, scoring 12 points in 15 minutes, not including the four points he missed by trying to straight YAM on the Knicks.

But back to Antetokounmpo. Not to sound all Nicki Minaj-ish, but the Knicks are Antetokounmpo’s sons at this point. Last season, nearly 11 months to the day, he hit the first game-winner of his career against these same Knicks, knocking in a turnaround fade away jumper over Thomas (now I see why he’s mad) and then-Knicks guard Derrick Rose in Madison Square Garden as the clock struck zero at the end of the fourth quarter.

Fast-forward to Friday night, and, with score tied at 90-90, Antetokounmpo walked up the court with about 20 seconds left both on the shot clock and in regulation. He knew what was next. Bucks interim coach Joe Prunty did too; he told the other four players in the timeout huddle to essentially “Pass it to Will” for the last possession. Kanter, who was inexplicably guarding Antetokounmpo in the winding seconds due to switching on a screen, knew, too; you could practically see the sweat dripping from his brow.

Antetokounmpo waited until there were seven seconds left on the game clock, charged toward Kanter, hit the spin cycle (defenders really should anticipate this at this point) to the left, and somehow laid the ball in from three feet under the free-throw line to give the Bucks a two-point lead with just 1.9 seconds remaining.

Antetokounmpo wagged his tongue as he ran back up the court, joining the likes of Reggie Miller, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Snoop Dogg and Michael Jordan as the true kings of New York.

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