The Bucks defeated the LA Clippers 105-100 in Milwaukee, thanks to another electrifying performance from the two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, a player who embodies the joy of basketball better than any other.
Who knows? Maybe sometimes one superstar is better than two.
With all due respect to Khris Middleton, who remains an All-Star level player without the ego, and therefore the All-Star level adoration, this is still the Giannis Show in Milwaukee. Roll up, roll up. See the Greek Freak make NBA basketball seem like the easiest thing in the world.
The Los Angeles Clippers threw everything they could at the reigning two-time MVP, including persistent double teams featuring every combination of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Serge Ibaka, and Patrick Beverley, all excellent defensive players. Giannis turned them to mincemeat time and time again.
There was, of course, a Clippers run in the third quarter that threatened to snatch the game, with Ibaka briefly raining jumpers and Kawhi turning his internal seriousness hardware up from 10 to 11. It just wasn’t enough.
In the fourth, Giannis took over once again. Even his free-throw shooting – often shaky at best – didn’t matter as Antetokounmpo swished a crucial pair to give the Bucks a one-point lead with two minutes remaining.
For George and Leonard, two superstars co-existing in LA precisely because of their perceived crunch-time chops, it wasn’t pretty. They were 0-4 on go-head baskets, a reminder perhaps that the horrors of last season’s playoffs still linger in the memory.
The Bucks, meanwhile, made a series of winning plays centred around the singular destructive talents of Giannis. He blocked a Leonard shot after some instinctive help defense, he bullied his way to and-1 fouls, he caught lobs straight off clever Middleton inbound passes.
The more said about his earth-shattering block on Ivica Zubac’s two-handed cockback, the better. There are basketball plays and whatever on earth this is: a man sucking the soul of another straight from his body like one of the Death Eaters in Harry Potter.
For the most part, the Clippers played well. They shared the ball, whipping it around the half-court to create three-point looks and were perhaps unlucky not to hit more than 14 of their 44 attempts from deep for 32%, well below their season average of 42%. Their small-ball line-ups dragged them back into the game when they needed them to. The lack of isolation basketball was refreshing.
And yet… there was Giannis. The single most impossible athlete in a league full of impossible athletes. An offense unto himself.
His stat line, 36 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and one steal doesn’t tell you half of it. The passes were lasers, the points bruising and the boards snatched out the air with so much venom you felt as though he’d puncture the ball with his fingertips.
The Bucks iced the match with the play of the game. Giannis with the ball at the top of the key. He bounces Beverley off like an Ox swatting a fly with its tail and finds Jrue Holiday cutting to the basket. Holiday out to Connaughton open in the corner. Closed down, he passes to Middleton beside him.
Middleton fakes the shot, steps inside the arc, and offloads to Giannis lurking at the top of the key.
Giannis sees all five Clippers ahead of him. Really he only sees the basket. He takes two steps and crushes it, hopping around the court in celebration, flexing his muscles for a crowd that isn’t there.
Regardless, for Antetokounmpo and everyone watching at home it was the ecstatic joy of basketball once again. Unlike his two Clipper counterparts, seemingly weighed down by the thick pressure of the air in Los Angeles, he continues to embody it better than anyone else.
Source : Sky Sports