Giannis MVP Watch: Bucks vs. Hawks
Antetokounmpo’s stat line includes 33 points, 11 rebounds and 3 stolen souls
Giannis Antetokounmpo (it’s pronounced YAHN-iss ahn-teh-toe-KUHN-poe, you savages) most likely won’t win the NBA MVP award this season. The Milwaukee Bucks are barely expected to win 45 games, his teammates are a ragtag bunch of replacement-level players, and he can’t keep up this level of usage (33.8 as of Oct. 29) and efficiency (63.1 shooting percentage) for an entire 82-game season, especially with the (possible) return of running mate Jabari Parker in January.
But none of that matters, because sometimes the journey (half-court dunks) matters more than the destination (division titles). The fifth-year player, still somehow 22 years old, has it written all over him, easily passing Potter Stewart’s “I know it when I see it” test.
So in this space, when Antetokounmpo has an earth-shattering performance, i.e., the final 30 seconds of the Bucks-Portland Trail Blazers tilt on Oct. 21, I will dissect the game and explain why it makes the so-called “Greek Freak” (please stop calling him that) the unquestionably best player in the NBA.
What did he do?
33 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 stolen souls (see below) on 67 percent shooting vs. the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night.
Unlike the other five games of the season, Antetokounmpo finally got some much-needed help from his teammates. Bucks players not named Giannis made 12 3-pointers on 52 percent shooting and four of them – including Rashad “17th Overall Pick” Vaughn – scored in double digits. But it was still more of the same from Antetokounmpo, scoring most of his 33 points from the paint – all but four of his 14 made shots came from the restricted area. It was basically 48 minutes of “Giannis on the fast break,” “Giannis on the easy layup,” or “Giannis done done it again.”
Did he dunk on someone?
He sure did, buddy. “Swole Giannis” bodied Hawks guard Kent Bazemore into the paint like he was Shaquille O’Neal, and when Bazemore thought he had help from teammates John Collins and Taurean Prince, Antetokounmpo made them look foolish as well. All three Hawks players swarmed on Antetokounmpo below the basket, but with one pump fake, they all bit, and the Bucks forward one-hand slammed it all in their faces like it was a Buy 2, Get 1 Free special at Piggly Wiggly, getting poked in the eye in the process. I am willing to scrap with whoever tried to blind the greatest of all time.
Where there's a will, there's a way.
— NBA (@NBA) October 29, 2017
Did he make a crazy play?
There were, per usual, many Eurosteps, but Antetokounmpo’s craziest play was actually three plays. He’s long been criticized for not yet developing a consistent jump shot, but Antetokounmpo put that to rest for at least one night in the first two minutes of the game. Hawks forward Mike Muscala, showing no respect, gave him space on the perimeter on the first possession, so Antetokounmpo nailed a 21-footer right in his arrogant face. The next time down the court, Muscala did it again, so he just pulled up from 26 feet this time and rained a 3-pointer like he was the third Splash Brother, Greek Curry (also a new multicultural dish). Poor Muscala thought it was over after that, but Antetokounmpo backed him down and easily laid the ball in despite help defense from Bazemore. Antetokounmpo scored the Bucks’ first nine points of the game and scored or assisted on the first 14.
— NBA (@NBA) October 29, 2017
What was his MVP moment?
Antetokounmpo’s 208 points (34.7 per game) in the Bucks’ first six games of the season surpasses five-time All-Star Marques Johnson (198) and Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (194 and 183) for most in team history. That total also moves him to eighth all-time for points in a team’s first six games, sitting behind only Michael Jordan (4 times), Rick Barry, Stephen Curry and World B. Free. Jordan (1991-92) and Curry (2015-16) would go on to win the MVP during those seasons.