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Giannis MVP Watch: Bucks vs. Warriors

Antetokounmpo gets some revenge in the rematch with Durant

Milwaukee Bucks “point forward” Giannis Antetokounmpo is the wild card among the candidates to win the NBA’s MVP award (James Harden is the favorite). 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, Part XV, Part XVI, Part XVII.


What did he do?

32 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals on 77 percent shooting in a 116-107 win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night.

Did he dunk on someone?

Aside from Kevin Durant’s prolific shooting ability, he and Antetokounmpo are similar players, so it’s always exciting to see them go head to head. In the teams’ last game, the 2013-14 MVP took the Greek Freak to school on the Warriors’ way to a 108-94 victory in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo got some revenge in the rematch, going stride for stride with Durant as he followed Antetokounmpo up the court on a fast break.

Here’s where another difference in the pair came into play, as Swole Giannis used all his newfound upper body strength (possibly an offensive foul) to send Durant flying into the baseline as he slammed it home on the head of Warriors guard Patrick McCaw.

This missed call by the referees, though, played a key part in what happened next to Durant.

Did he make a crazy play?

Antetokounmpo neither created nor perfected the Euro step, but he always makes it look so effortlessly easy. He first went around a John Henson screen to free himself from Durant and then sliced through JaVale McGee and Draymond Green with a mean “gyro step” before finishing off with an elongated hook shot. Antetokounmpo’s strides are so long that he could have traveled — not that kind of “travel” — the length of the Bay Bridge that the Warriors will use to move their franchise from Oakland, California, to San Francisco.

 

What was his MVP moment?

As was the case on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs, Antetokounmpo and the Bucks don’t deserve much credit for beating a Warriors team without two of the best shooters in NBA history. Not to mention, in “grand opening, grand closing” fashion, Durant’s return from a six-game absence lasted just 17 minutes.

In the first half, Antetokounmpo, as stated above, plowed through Durant on a non-call by the refs to slam home one basket, and the Warriors forward was in the vicinity of another dunk as well. Late in the second quarter, the officials then missed a defensive foul when Antetokounmpo swatted Durant’s arm as the latter drove to the basket, thus leading to Durant running up on referee Tre Maddox. He was ejected before the first-half buzzer even rang.

And for that, Antetokounmpo has his “moment” by essentially goading a former MVP into back-to-back technical fouls due to the two favorable non-calls he received from the officials.

Durant being ejected near the end of the first half when the Warriors were down just 56-49 meant this game was headed toward a different conclusion, but his absence led not only to a loss but also to the Houston Rockets clinching the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

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