Eric Bledsoe said it best following Thursday night’s grind it out victory over the Indiana Pacers. “That was my first time seeing him (Giannis Antetokounmpo) getting mad like that, especially getting a tech. I never saw it before, but I like it. He’s passionate and that goes a long way.”
Going back to December 12th, Thaddeus Young emerged as a Antetokounmpo-stopper by holding the Greek Freak to 12 points on 4-6 shooting. Midway through the third quarter, Antetokounmpo looked like he was on his way to another lousy performance at the hands of Young and the Pacers. He was just 2-for-8 from the field for 13 points. That’s when “it” happened.
Antetokounmpo went up for a dunk attempt and appeared to be mugged by the duo of Myles Turner and Bojan Bogdanovic. However, the officials saw it differently and let the teams play on. As Antetokounmpo fumed from the hardwood, Bogdanovic drained a three-pointer at the other end to cut the Bucks’ lead to three. Antetokounmpo, unsatisfied with the no-call, let the official have an earful, leading to a technical foul.
The Pacers paid dearly for the official’s decision. The Bucks went on a 13-0 streak by scoring on their next six possessions. The rage run turned a three-point, tightly contested game into a double-digit blowout. Antetokounmpo scored four points during that run and assisted on three other made buckets. However, it was certainly a team effort. Let’s take a look at how it all went down.
The Bucks inbounded the ball on their sideline immediately following the missed technical free throw by Bogdanovic. Mike Budenholzer knew his stud was fuming so he called his number right out of the gate:
Most impressively, Antetokounmpo showed off his basketball I.Q. by not forcing the issue to get into the lane. Instead, he tossed it to Eric Bledsoe at the top of the key and followed with a ball screen. Bledsoe probed the lane before kicking it to Brook Lopez on the opposite wing. Lopez took advantage of a fierce closeout by Turner and shot an awkward floating jump shot only a mother could love. Fortunately, Antetokounmpo was right there to clean up Lopez’ mess and slammed home the two-handed dunk following the offensive rebound. And make no mistake who the stare was for.
On the very next Bucks’ possession, Antetokounmpo once again showed great restraint. The whole building was passionately angry after the disservice the officials committed at the behalf of the cities most beloved player.
Following a defensive rebound, Antetokounmpo was fearlessly bringing the ball up the court, looking to unleash the hurt on someone. Anyone. After nearly losing his handle, he showed wisdom beyond his years and brought the ball out to the perimeter. It’s at that moment he realized his seven-foot buddy was positioned for a catch-and-shoot on the opposite wing. Antetokounmpo whipped an overhead, two-handed pass to Lopez who jab stepped and then launched an absurdly deep three that found nothing but net.
In order to keep the streak going, the Bucks called a traditional set for their second-best player, Khris Middleton.
Nikola Mirtoic cut through to the weak side dunker’s spot as Antetokounmpo dumped the ball off to Middleton in the post. Middleton instantly attacked Bogdanovic, as he drove to the baseline before spinning toward the middle of the floor and hitting a smooth fade-away jumper with his defender all in his face.
The Bucks love to push the pace in transition and last night was no different. Whenever they can get out and run they are able to find buckets in a much easier fashion. That’s exactly what they did as they scored for the fourth straight time to extend the run to 9-0.
Poor Bogdanovic. As great of a shooter as he is, he can’t cut it on the defensive end when matched up with a locked in Middleton. Middleton received the outlet pass from Antetokounmpo on the left wing and attacked the Pacer’s guard with a sense of urgency. Middleton showed off a little funk by hitting his man with an in-and-out dribble and blowing right past him for two points.
Middleton continued to extract the life out of the Pacers and this time he chose a different victim then Bogdanovic.
Wasting little time, Middleton quickly brought the ball across half court and smelled blood in the water. With the Bucks extending their lead to 12 points following the ill-advised tech, Middleton quickly made it an 11-0 streak. He unloaded a filthy combination of handles that details as follows; left-to-right cross between the legs, an immediate right to left behind the back dribble before he pulled it out for a moment, another in-out dribble with his left before finalizing the hypnotizing moves with a crossover to his dominant right hand. Middleton used the room his fancy ball work created to get off a sweet floater high off the glass. That’s artwork.
Finally, Antetokounmpo finished what he started just a few minutes earlier.
Antetokounmpo is a dangerous roll-man and can make any pedestrian pay for thinking they can challenge him at the rim. This play was no different as the Greek Freak set a screen for Middleton on the left wing. Before making solid contact, Giannis jetted toward the hoop and caught the ball in stride. That allowed him to instantly launch toward the rim and yam it down in Turner’s face for the poster.
When all was said and done, the Bucks held on to a double-digit lead the rest of the way and finished off the persistent Pacers. Antetokounmpo used the tech to fuel himself as well. He made eight of his nine shot attempts (six dunks) following the altercation and scored 16 of his game-high 29 points.
This extra gear the Bucks unleashed on the Eastern Conference’s third-best team has been a common occurrence this year, at least. It’s what separates them from the other good teams across the NBA landscape. Sometimes they just need that extra shove to get them there.