A few days ago, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 40 points and came up with a game-saving block on Joel Embiid in the closing seconds of a comeback win over the Philadelphia 76ers. For most players, that would have been the performance of the season. For Giannis, it wasn’t even his best outing of the week.
On Thursday night, with the Milwaukee Bucks up against another Eastern Conference contender in the Brooklyn Nets, Giannis somehow managed to one-up himself, and once again saved the day. He finished with 44 points, 14 rebounds and six assists on 14-of-21 from the field and 15-of-19 from the line to lead the Bucks to a 120-119 win in overtime. In the process he also passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the Bucks’ all-time leading scorer.
With less than 30 seconds to play in regulation, the Bucks trailed by three and were without Khris Middleton who had been ejected earlier in the fourth for a flagrant foul on Bruce Brown. After initially kicking the ball out (and nearly turning it over), Giannis got the ball at the top of the key and did his best Middleton impersonation, draining a pull-up 3-pointer right in Andre Drummond’s face to tie the game.
Then, in the closing seconds of of overtime, Giannis once again delivered. After Kevin Durant hit three free throws to put the Nets up by one, Giannis raced down the floor, powered his way to the basket and drew a foul on Nic Claxton. He then calmly stepped to the line and proved once again that he’s well past his free throw issues by knocking down both of them to give the Bucks the lead.
When Durant’s last-second shot from the top of the key rimmed out, the Bucks secured another impressive victory. Milwaukee has now won four of their last five games, and 12-of-15 overall to improve to 48-28 on the season. That’s good for second place in the ever-changing Eastern Conference standings, but with the top-four teams separated by just 2.5 games, it’s a bit too early to try and make any projections about their potential first-round playoff opponent.
But with Giannis leading the way, and a championship to defend, it’s hard to imagine the Bucks care much about who’s in their path.