Yesterday wasn’t about the Bucks consecutive streak of scoring 100+ a game being broken. It wasn’t about a midday tip time that lead directly into the inevitable slog through four quarters against pesky opponents. And it wasn’t even about the 93-85 victory the Bucks would go on to secure.
Yesterday was really about Giannis taking another serious leap forward in his development as the closest thing to an unstoppable force we’ve seen since LeBron James’s peak.
That we were in for something of a treat was evident from the moment the game began. On Milwaukee’s second offensive possession they found Giannis at the top of the paint isolated on the physically smaller PJ Washington. Instead of directly powering through, Giannis took his time and opted for a jab step to get Washington off his feet before draining the silky fadeaway.
On the next possession, Milwaukee got Giannis the ball out on the perimeter with Bismack Biyombo getting the call to keep in front of Antetokounmpo. Giannis approached Biyombo like an apex predator, pulled a few dribble moves to keep Biyombo off-balance, drove into his chest before using airy light footwork to shake Biyombo right past him before drawing a foul and the uncontested and-one.
In short, those two looks were just the first of countless examples of an Antetokounmpo at the top of his game in a situation with a team lacking the oomph elsewhere to help carry the load. The result? A 40 point, 20 rebound, 6 assist outing for Giannis.
Giannis Antetokounmpo just became the 19th player in NBA history with a 40-20-5 game.— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) March 1, 2020
Giannis, Barkley, Boogie, Bird, Carroll, Shaq and C-Webb are the only players to do it in the three-point era.
And the Bucks needed every bit of that historical performance to get them past the Hornets. After those first Giannis buckets, the first quarter featured a strong first six minutes before the Hornets reeled their way back into things. In what would be a recurring bug, the Bucks were able to score a whopping six points in... about six minutes of game action as the quarter wound down. Still, they’d ride into the second frame up 26-20.
Unfortunately for our viewing pleasure, however, the second quarter was a harbinger or the muck the rest of the game was going to be. With Eric Bledsoe doing a little disappearing act (though coach Budenholzer stated after the game that Eric was dealing with injury), Brook Lopez still trying to figure out how to take three-point shots, and a lot of Wes Matthews jab-stepping on the perimeter, it would fall on the Bench Mob to get the Bucks over the top.
The Bench Mob promptly went 8-22 from the floor en route to a ho hum game the likes we’ve rarely seen this season. George Hill was the only real substitute standout with his 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists, though Donte DiVincenzo should also get a little shine for finding ways other than scoring to lessen Antetokounmpo’s burden with 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
Thinking back on the game, there really wasn’t anything that really stood out besides Giannis doing his thing and Brook deciding that if threes weren’t falling he was going inside. Seriously, go check out the play-by-play. There are very long stretches of play time, especially in the third and fourth quarters, where it’s either of those guys making a shot or taking contact to get to the free throw line. That they combined to go 13-16 from the stripe helped immensely.
It was, in short, a bit of a mess. Still, a win is yet another win, and even the ugly ones count when you’re 52-8.
The Next Evolution?
Okay, I’ll stop yammering on about this Giannis mid-range thing soon. Before I shut up, I just want you to imagine this with me: Giannis continues to gain even more confidence combining his fluid footwork and body control with terrifying strength, the team anchors him 15 feet from the basket time after time, he gets to examine the floor and acts as a proverbial knife at the opponent’s throat. It’s deadly as hell to let him ram forward from 30 feet out. One could argue, though, that it’s even more deadly if he no longer has to make a fast-motion split-second passing decision and instead forces you to leave a single defender out on the worst island ever or send a second guy Giannis’s way and compromise your perimeter defense.
Think of the possibilities!
Being a professional athlete is a lot like what you or I do in our day jobs: Sure, we could go into the workplace at 2 AM and probably do an OK job, but we certainly won’t be as good at what we do as we’d be during our usual hours of operation.
So no, I won’t be panicking about how poorly the Bucks played for long stretches today. Literally every single NBA team runs into these problems when they’re forced off their usual 7 PM-ish start times. Doesn’t make the basketball any less ugly, though.
In his first return to Charlotte since leaving the Hornets after the trade deadline, Marvin Williams followed up a pair strong outings against the Raptors and Thunder with an oh-fer in 20 minutes yesterday. Well, not a true oh-fer — he had 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal, but he didn’t have the 20 point outburst we were all secretly hoping for.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Sterling Brown continues to be in an entire funk. Give the guy credit for continuing to hammer away with attempts to drive to the basket, but demerits for just having not executing well enough often enough.
- You knew the offense was running out of original ideas when Wes Matthews spent two to three possessions in the fourth posting up. None of it went well and I’m still on Team Just Shoot Threes for Wes.
- Khris Middleton was out for the second game in a row with a neck issue. It sounds like he may be available for tonight’s game in Miami.
- That will be the last time the Bucks play the Hornets this season. They swept the season series 3-0 in a trend that will be depressingly (from the POV of the rest of the NBA) commonplace as the season winds down.