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Giannis MVP Watch: Bucks vs. Spurs

Antetokounmpo’s slams made Spurs defenders look silly all game

If you’re new to this ongoing series, read our first entry about Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo’s MVP candidacy here.

What did he do?

28 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks on 50 percent shooting in a 94-87 win over the host San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.

They say — and by “they” I mean Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight — the night is darkest just before the dawn. And there were some dark days for the Bucks heading into San Antonio to face the somehow-always-contending Spurs. After a 4-2 start to the season, the young Bucks dropped their next four games, surrendering 116.3 points per game in the process. But with the addition of guard Eric Bledsoe (acquired from the Phoenix Suns via trade on Nov. 7), the Bucks picked up the pace and ran circles around the geriatric Spurs.

Did he dunk on someone?

How much time do you have? While he didn’t technically dunk on someone, Antetokounmpo’s slams still made Spurs defenders look silly all game. There was the two-handed, shot-clock-beating putback dunk early in the first quarter. But later in the first he swatted Spurs forward Rudy Gay’s shot on one end and sprinted the entire length of the court to easily slam it home. But even later in the half, Antetokounmpo led the fast break and passed it to Bledsoe, who then threw an alley-oop right back to Antetokounmpo while forward LaMarcus Aldridge made a business decision and got out of the way. Those were all good, but Antetokounmpo’s greatest contribution was on yet another fast break (the Bucks had a 19-8 advantage in fast-break points), getting out in front of poor Aldridge again and elevating for a reverse dunk à la Michael Jordan in the 1985 Slam Dunk Contest, literally gliding through the air like a paper airplane.

Did he make a crazy play?

Bear with me here, because this is about to sound as convoluted as a Michael Bay movie plot. Antetokounmpo guided Aldridge — this is getting disrespectful at this point — into a turnover and then sprinted up the court for the fast break, not realizing teammate Malcolm Brogdon had passed the ball to him in the process. Antetokounmpo nearly kicked the ball out of bounds, picked it up at the last second, crossed over Gay in the same motion and then had the nerve to Eurostep past the Eurostep god himself, Manu Ginobili, for an easy layup. It was like ballet in motion.

What was his MVP moment?

Aside from the sheer magic of the above play, Antetokounmpo, with the Bucks up 87-84, after being up by as many as 14 points in the second half, made three clutch free throws in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter that kept the Bucks ahead for good. His most clutch play, though, was with almost two minutes left in the fourth. With the Bucks up just 89-87, Bledsoe went around a Antetokounmpo screen and got pickpocketed by forward Kyle Anderson, who looked like he had a free lane to the basket to tie the game. But Anderson couldn’t control the ball, and Antetokounmpo sprinted to midcourt to save it, preventing an easy fast break that would’ve brought the house down. The Spurs didn’t score another point the rest of the game.

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