After watching Giannis Antetokounmpo shred the Lakers for a career-best 25 points on Wednesday, Bucks head coach Jason Kidd predicted his 20-year-old prodigy's latest career-high wouldn't last for long. Forty eight hours later he was right.
By the time the buzzer sounded on the Bucks' 117-111 loss in Houston, Giannis' line featured two new career-bests (27 points! 15 rebounds!) plus four assists and a highlight reel block (how he wasn't credited with at least one or two more blocks is beyond me, but whatever). When all was said and done, Giannis had become the second youngest player in the past 30 years to post a 27/15/4 line. The only guy to do it at a younger age? Some dude named LeBron James.
How he did it all was largely (and rather gloriously) familiar. That patented shoulder-dipping move to shield off Trevor Ariza on his way to a fast break dunk. A drive-left-and-spin-back-right move that looked eerily similar to the one he befuddled Nick Young with on Wednesday. A handoff at the foul line, one enormous stride, and a lefty finish at the rim. A bully-ball back down and lefty finish over a mismatched Pat Beverley. And four (count 'em!) mid-range jumpers, each one more confident than the one before it.
Like on Wednesday, those jumpers were perhaps the most refreshing part of his night -- no hesitation, good balance, and the results to match. Especially with Giannis seeing so much time as a P&R big, the ability to both roll and pop out for open jumpers adds another wrinkle to both his game and the Bucks' offense, and the scary part is that he's making real strides in that area. Though he generally hasn't found many opportunities rolling to the hoop -- especially with P&R expert Kendall Marshall now out for the season -- the P&R is proving more and more effective at getting Giannis into spots where he can excel. If teams switch, he has a mismatch against a smaller player he can exploit in the high post, either by facing up or backing a smaller guy down. If teams leave him alone he can get an open look that his teammates want him to take. Whatever happens, it's important to keep him close to the middle of the court, as he's struggled mightily from the corners especially the right side.