The Bucks played the 76ers yesterday, in Milwaukee. The game had an outcome; the outcome had no effect on the standings. I am here to call to your attention the two giant space monsters, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid, who combined for 92 points and 31 rebounds in the game and made everybody else on the court look like extras in a Godzilla movie.
Let’s start with Giannis, who went for a career-high 52 points in the loss.
I suppose it’s nice to see Giannis knock down a trio of three-pointers. I can put on my Very Serious Basketball Analysis face and say that Giannis taking and making a decent number of those is key to keeping opposing defenses juuuuust honest enough for Milwaukee’s half-court offense to work. Great. But we are not here today to appreciate the strategic soundness of a confidently taken perimeter jump shot. We are here for the fuckin’ jams! Skip ahead to 4:10 of the video for my favorite. Here is a GIF of it:
This play is fucking bonkers. I can’t stop watching it. Giannis shifts from an enthusiastic jog to a terrifying downhill sprint so suddenly and so effortlessly midway through this GIF that it looks like somebody hit fast-forward on the video; all at once he has warped from near midcourt to the middle of the lane, and he’s barreling through the chest of the literal largest man in the entire NBA, Philadelphia’s 7-foot-3, 290-pound Boban Marjanović, and he’s hauling the ball up through Marjanović’s arms and Tobias Harris’s hopeless swipe and punching it down through the basket while all the literal largest man in the entire NBA can do is look up at it from beneath the backboard. Nobody does this. Nobody sees all five opposing players comfortably back on defense after a made bucket, and the literal largest man in the entire NBA poised halfway along a vector between the ball and the rim, and thinks “It’s dunking time.” This is madness.
I like watching little T.J. McConnell, who’s defending Eric Bledsoe in the right corner (up at the top of the screen). Not so much for the ineffectual hard feint McConnell gives toward Giannis when he swoops into the lane, on the off chance he can trick Giannis into kicking the ball out to Bledsoe instead of yamming on the literal largest man in the entire NBA, but for the blank bafflement that takes over McConnell’s body language as he sees Marjanović reduced to rubble at the end of a play that began with all five Sixers beating the ball back on defense and arraying the literal largest man in the entire NBA between Giannis and the basket. It reminds me of this:
Honestly, I’ve never related to T.J. McConnell, a generally intolerable professional annoyance, more than in this moment of hapless incomprehension. I, too, can make no sense of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
There’s also the delightfully spicy moment at around 6:05 of the video up there, when Giannis, working on the right block, bashes Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons under the rim with a couple of hard back-down dribbles, waits out a hilariously feeble swipe at the ball, then hammers down an and-one dunk and calls Simmons “a fucking baby.”
Ben Simmons is 6-foot-10 and one of the most imposing athletes in the entire NBA. What the hell, man.
Embiid, for his part, hung up 40 points and 15 rebounds. His highlights are, if anything, even funnier and wilder than Antetokounmpo’s, but for different reasons.
Look at this extremely relaxed man! Embiid’s conditioning has never yet reached “league average” in his career, but since missing eight straight post-break games to deal with persistent knee soreness (and presumably not doing any undue walking during that time, so as not to inflame whatever caused the soreness), he’s at times almost comically lethargic on the court. That’s the sort of thing you can get away with when you are a goddamn kaiju with an absurdly broad skillset and the athletic grace of frickin’ Legolas. I love the little flat-footed floater he banks in at around the 57-second mark in the video; I love the random-seeming contested pull-up jumper he kinda just aimlessly wanders into at 1:12. But my absolute favorite is this:
For the record, that is more spice than Lonzo Ball can put into one dribble sequence, coming from a huge seven-foot center who, no matter what his official bio says, likely weighs at least 300 pounds. But my favorite part is when Embiid makes light contact with Antetokoumpo on the drive, goes Oh fuck this, I’m tired now, pumps up the silliest possible fall-away shot rather than bother muscling his way to the rim—and bounces it in anyway, because he was able to get it up there with an exquisitely soft touch that, again, surpasses the abilities of most guards. This isn’t fair.
By the fourth quarter he’d revved himself up to something closer to full intensity, by which time he was doing shit like this and making various Bucks look completely foolish:
Give me a friggin’ break! Three of the five Bucks are standing in the restricted area by the time Embiid gets there, but that slick spin move turns Brook Lopez into a screen on the other two. That’s like 2009 Carmelo Anthony shit, with the video slowed down 15 percent and the guy doing it enlarged by four inches and 60 pounds.
If the standings hold up from here on in, the Bucks and Sixers may miss each other in the playoffs. That would be a shame. This dumpster world doesn’t deserve two straight weeks of these monsters wrecking shit and calling each others’ teammates puny piss-dwarves with a possible shot at the Finals on the line. But I will hope for it anyway.