The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the LA Lakers 111-104 in a sensational showdown on Friday afternoon (AEST), but it was the antics of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo that stole the show.
Both teams entered the contest leading their respective conferences, boasting matching 24-4 records heading into the showdown.
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The marquee matchup between Lakers duo Anthony Davis and LeBron James, and Milwaukee’s Antetokounmpo more than lived up to expectations.
James had a triple double and Davis dropped 36 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, but it wasn’t enough to stop Antetokounmpo.
The Greek Freak finished with 34 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists - but it was his shooting from outside that stole the show.
Generally considered a poor shooter, Antetokounmpo’s shot has steadily progressed towards league average this season.
His shooting percentages would have been boosted by his impressive 5-8 split from beyond the arc.
After hitting his fifth three, sending the home crowd into a frenzy, the reigning MVP mimed putting a crown on his head - no doubt a reference to the crown passing from ‘King James’ to himself.
The outrageously cocky act set NBA Twitter ablaze.
Did Giannis just crown himself? I think he just crowned himself.— Joe Musso (@MooseOnAir) December 20, 2019
Giannis wants the crown now. He made a statement tonight. Big time win for the Bucks over the Lakers. If the Greek Freak can consistently hit 3s and mid range shots like tonight, the league is in serious trouble. He’s still only 25! 👀 https://t.co/8jOJdOuD8V— Dominic Gildener (@DominicGildener) December 20, 2019
He told LeBron to crown him. Giannis just became my favorite player😂 https://t.co/KEczOZC3k7— Jawn Mayer (@CGonatas) December 20, 2019
The Bucks held the Lakers to 28.6 percent shooting in a season-low 17-point quarter for Los Angeles that they led by six.
They caught fire on offense in the second to take a 65-45 halftime lead, threatening to turn the potential NBA Finals preview between a pair of 24-4 teams into a blowout.
But the Lakers closed the gap, cutting their deficit to eight points in a 35-point third quarter that saw their offense find a rhythm as Antetokounmpo sat late with four fouls.
After the Bucks built the lead back up to 13, the Lakers threatened again late, cutting their deficit to as low as five points in the game’s final minute. But the Bucks never allowed them any closer, securing the win and the best record in the NBA.
Antetokounmpo, Davis put on a show in MVP race
In a game featuring three MVP candidates, Antetokounmpo was the star, leading the Bucks with 34 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
He did so while featuring his revamped 3-pointer, hitting a career-high five on eight attempts.
After an MVP campaign where the only knock on his game was his distance shooting, Antetokounmpo continues to improve from behind the arc, where he’s shooting a career-high 32.1 percent.
He’s doing so while more than doubling his career average of 1.9 with 5.1 attempts per game.
Anthony Davis was a worthy counter for Antetokounmpo, tallying 36 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while playing on a sprained right ankle that forced him to miss Tuesday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers and had him labeled as a game-time decision on Thursday.
But unlike Antetokounmpo, he couldn’t connect from distance, missing all six of his attempts.
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