If it only takes two points to make a line, Bucks fans have to like the trajectory Giannis Antetokounmpo is on.
The Milwaukee Bucks' five-game winning streak came to end Friday night with a 117-111 loss to the Houston Rockets despite perhaps the best games of Antetokounmpo's young career. Two days after scoring 25 points against the Los Angeles Lakers, Giannis was at times unstoppable in piling up 27 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 assists on 11-16 shooting from the field (5-6 FT), setting a new career high in scoring for the second game in a row.
Six other Bucks players scored in double figures, including a double-double for Brandon Knight (12 points, 11 rebounds,5 steals), but the Bucks couldn't quite keep pace with the Rockets' perimeter bombing. Although the Bucks made seven more shots and committed four fewer turnovers, Houston finished with a massive advantage in three-point shooting. James Harden (33 points) and Trevor Ariza (24) were unsurprising culprits, but even Josh Smith found the range against Milwaukee, sinking four of five shots from behind the arc en route to 14 points off the bench. Houston finished the game 15-32 from three compared to just 4-17 shooting for Milwaukee.
And yet, the Bucks had chances late to steal a win and extend their winning streak to six games. Milwaukee trailed by 17 points early in the the fourth quarter but reeled off an extended 18-4 run to cut the lead to 105-102 with just over four minutes to play. Jerryd Bayless answered a pair of Harden free throws with a driving layup before Trevor Ariza sank a three-pointer for his first points of the second half. The Bucks had a few opportunities to make it a one-possession game, but open looks from the right corner for Khris Middleton and Knight failed to drop and Houston was able to close the game out at the foul line. Middleton was 0-4 from three for the game, just the second time in his last 18 games he failed to make a three-pointer.
It was a tough loss given the opportunities Milwaukee had, but one the team can certainly be proud of (to whatever extent any NBA team can be proud of a loss). The Rockets were on their game and still had to fight for the full 48 minutes.
And Giannis. Oh boy, Giannis. He took just four shots outside the paint all game and made them all, and while that might suggest his line was a bit fluky, there was nothing gimmicky about what he did in the paint. Giannis utilized his size in the post beautifully, working his way close to the basket and then shooting around or over defenders. He also ignited the Bucks' offense with his defense, including a block on a layup attempt by Harden during Milwaukee's fourth-quarter run. Even if eclipsing Wednesday's point tally relied on a few jumpers that might not always fall, this was arguably the best game of Giannis' young career, and that makes any loss easier to take.