With just over 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter on Sunday, Giannis Antetokounmpo was high-skipping down the court, a massive grin etched across his face. He had just thrown down a thunderous slam to put the Milwaukee Bucks up by three over the Los Angeles Clippers, and send what limited fans were inside Fiserv Forum into euphoria.
A Kawhi Leonard miss and two Khris Middleton free throws later, the Bucks had secured a 105-100 victory to extend their winning streak to five straight games. The season hasn’t quite gone to plan for the Bucks, but things are starting to look up for the title hopefuls. Jrue Holiday is back in the lineup after a 10-game absence, and after Sunday’s win they’ve moved to within a game of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We gotta keep working,” Giannis said after the win. “We have a long way to go. We gotta keep playing good basketball, keep making the right decisions, creating good habits and hope that everything will work out in the end.”
But while Giannis wasn’t ready to claim that the team has turned a corner, his performance was yet another reminder that even if the Bucks haven’t been their usual dominant selves this regular season, they’re capable of beating anyone in the league when he plays his best basketball.
His final line reads like a video game: 36 points on 15-of-27 from the field, 14 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. But the way he completely took over the fourth quarter and guided the Bucks home was the most impressive aspect of Giannis’ afternoon. There was an incredible amount of talent on the in the game, but he made it crystal clear that he was the best player on the floor.
Giannis played the entire fourth quarter, and put up 17 of the Bucks’ final 22 points. In fact, he nearly matched the Clippers’ total for the quarter (19 points) by himself. But he wasn’t just doing it on offense. He also had a number of key defensive plays, including one of the best blocks of the season on Ivica Zubac.
Over his last 10 games, Giannis is averaging 33.5 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 6.6 assists, while shooting 55.2 percent from the field. He’s even seemingly solved his free throw troubles, and is shooting 75 percent from the stripe during this stretch. The Bucks’ slow start to the season overshadowed what he was doing on an individual level, but on Sunday he made sure he couldn’t be ignored.