Another game, another career high for Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Six days after mismatching his way to 18 points in a big win over the Grizzlies, Giannis once again showed off his blossoming scoring chops on Friday night in Orlando with 19 points on 9/15 shooting (another career-best). Giannis' night offered Bucks fan some silver linings in their 101-85 loss to the Magic, which also featured Tobias Harris playing out of his mind (of course) and Jabari Parker (6 pts, 2/5 fg) once again underwhelming.
But it's the weekend, and sports should be fun, so let's talk about Giannis, eh? The recipe for his success on Friday looked mostly familiar -- a heavy dose of isolation fearlessness, a dash of back-to-the-basket confidence, and a whole lot of finishing creativity. Even with defenders sagging off and playing him for the drive, Giannis seems perfectly content to use the extra space to get a head of steam and barrel into the lane for shots around the basket. Not that all of them are easy looks, but his 71% finishing inside six feet tells you that it's working, and Friday night proved no exception. The obvious next step is developing a reliable pull-up to punish defenses for hanging way back on him, and the good news is that we did see him bury a free throw line pull-up in exactly that sort of situation last night.
Equally encouraging is Giannis' increasing confidence with his back to the basket. He twice beat Aaron Gordon by turning his back and then using his length to get off nice baby hook shots, once off a catch along the baseline and later in an isolation play from the top of the key. That length also means he can get shots from the post even when he's at a strength disadvantage, as we saw when he earned an and-one from the left block by driving middle on Harris and using his ridiculous length to finger roll a finish for two.
Friday's effort pushed Giannis' season averages to 11.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in 24.6 minutes per game -- the exact same amount of playing time he averaged a year ago, but with far better results. His usage and efficiency are both way up (15% to 21% usage and 51.8% to 57.3% true shooting), owing in large part to his much-improved accuracy inside the arc (44.% to 55.4%). Becoming a more reliable jump-shooter will only help further diversify Giannis' game, but for now he's showing he can be a major force even without it.