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Giannis MVP Watch: Bucks vs. Wizards

Antetokounmpo sends the fans in D.C. to the exits

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 Porziņģis 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 document Antetokounmpo’s performances that add to his burgeoning MVP candidacy through our “Giannis MVP Watch.” You can keep track of previous entries here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX.


What did he do?

34 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and 1 block on 70.6 percent shooting in a 110-103 win over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night.

Did he dunk on someone?

Possibly for the first time all season, no. Antetokounmpo had just one dunk the entire game, and if you weren’t paying attention, you would have missed that because he barely touched the rim when he slammed it down. The little kids who had a dunk contest on a Fisher-Price hoop during one of the breaks in the first half made a louder noise than Antetokounmpo did on his dunk.

Antetokounmpo did, however, show eccentric Wizards guard Kelly Oubre Jr. what time it is when he put the young player on the floor (although it wasn’t a dunk). In the middle of the third quarter, Oubre ran a fast break with teammate John Wall. Just as Wall was near the restricted area, he quickly turned and passed it to an incoming Oubre, who tried to commit a homicide on an unsuspecting Antetokounmpo. The dunk missed, but Oubre drew the foul and the admiration of the crowd.

Well, earlier in the game, as if he knew what was to come, Antetokounmpo was also on a fast break as Oubre defended him stride for stride. The Bucks forward headed right, quickly jerked left to get Oubre off-balance and then drove into the defender’s chest like he was Jerome Bettis, knocking him to the ground and easily converting the layup (0:53 mark). Not today, young fella. (I am aware that Oubre is just one year younger than Antetokounmpo, but the point still stands.)

Did he make a crazy play?

There are only about five players in the NBA who can pull off what Antetokounmpo did here. After running a pick-and-roll with Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton attempted a fadeaway jumper near the free throw line that bounced off the inside iron of the rim, sending the ball almost right into the hands of Wizards center Marcin Gortat for a defensive rebound. But like Tracy McGrady at the 2002 All-Star Game, Antetokounmpo reached back what felt like 5 feet, slapped the ball back toward the backboard before it could reach Gortat’s hands, collected the rebound and laid it in over three Wizards defenders.

What was his MVP moment?

At the beginning of the season, retired player Kobe Bryant issued “challenges” to multiple current stars on where to take their game over the next 82-plus games. For Antetokounmpo, the future Hall of Famer simply responded, “MVP.”

What better way to answer Bryant’s request than to just get buckets. On any given night, Antetokounmpo converts what feels like 95 percent of his points on layups, dunks and free throws. While all but four of his made shots on Saturday came from inside the restricted area, Antetokounmpo expanded his repertoire against the Wizards, incorporating Bryant’s patented back-down-turnaround jumper on multiple occasions.

But he saved his best Bryant impression for last.

With just over 40 seconds left in the game and the Bucks up 106-103, Antetokounmpo received the ball at the top of the key, rotated the ball in a clockwise motion around his body (like Bryant) as Oubre closed in to defend, charged to the top left of the free throw circle, set his feet and let the ball fly over Oubre’s outstretched arms. You could see Antetokounmpo yelling, “KOBE!” in his head as the shot hit nothing but net (3:14 mark).

Even with just a 108-103 lead and 35.7 seconds left on the clock, the fans at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., headed for the doors. They knew that was all she wrote.

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