For about a quarter, tonight’s Cavs-Bucks game went about how you’d expect. LeBron James and his pals were tossing audacious passes to each other, slamming the everloving Christ out of the basketball, and helping the Cavs to an easy ten-point lead in the first ten minutes of the game. Instead of rolling over, the Bucks roared back and ended up winning in a blowout, thanks to an all-around gem from stretchy Greek wizard Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo dropped a career-high-tying 34 points, along with 12 boards, five dimes, two steals, and a pair of blocks. As a 7-foot-tall man shaped like Gumby and blessed with sublime athleticism, Antetokounmpo has always held the potential to wreck the box score like he did tonight, but rarely has his game looked so thorough against such a good opponent. There were a few possessions were he overwhelmed the Cavs and looked like the altogether unique sort of player he’s been hinting he could become.
Here Antetokounmpo is, helping out on a post player, getting a strip steal, flying out in the fast break, dribbling past Kyrie Irving, then leaping up and over poor Iman Shumpert. His physical talent has always been beyond question, but his handle has never looked so smooth. Jason Kidd deputizing Antetokounmpo to run the point has certainly made him a more confident dribbler.
Antetokounmpo’s full-game highlights show a player who’s still fairly unpolished yet knows how to get himself into positions to score (especially in transition). He was the most dominant player on the court during Milwaukee’s decisive 23-5 third quarter run.
Like all raw, nebulous prospects, Antetokounmpo’s development supposedly hinges on his ability to develop a shot. What’s most impressive about Antetokounmpo’s game tonight was how he took over despite not shooting from the outside really at all. Only three of his 19 shots came from further than seven feet from the hoop. This usually means a player can expect to get sagged off of and invited to shoot, impairing his team’s spacing. The Cavaliers gave Giannis plenty of space, but he still wrecked them. Imagine how good he’ll could be when he finds his shot.