On what was the Bucks’ first regular season appearance on TNT in 13 years, Giannis Antetokounmpo wasted no time in making sure America knew his name. The Greek Freak soared to new levels, climbing the totem pole to a new career high in points with 33. America is becoming more and more familiar with Antetokounmpo, even if over 80 percent of NBA fans still can’t pronounce his name correctly.
Let’s dive into the X’s and O’s of Giannis’ career night. Antetokounmpo exploited the Cavaliers’ defense various times last night with his signature move of the quick spin. His spin is so tight that it not only throws off his defender, but also throws the audience into a parallel universe of the twilight zone. Giannis carried this move out immediately out of the gates, scoring Milwaukee’s first points of the night. Realizing he was provided with the size mismatch of Matthew Dellavedova on him, Antetokounmpo wasted no time powering his way to the basket. Using his 6’ 11” frame, he trucked his body into Dellavedova down to the paint and once there, took him through the spin cycle and came out clean a perfect layup.
The spin move on Dellavedova was not the only time Giannis unleashed his notorious move on the Cavaliers. Late in the first quarter, Antetokounmpo was matched up with Jared Cunningham on the right wing. Similar to the move he discharged on Dellavedova, Giannis powered his way to get into position in the post. Once there, his instincts and freakish body length did the rest. What’s so impressive about Giannis is his proficiency of using the combination of his length and footwork to get from point A to point B. One quick spin move past the befuddled Cunningham allowed Giannis to use his footwork to pave himself into position to score. His brilliant move with his pivot foot carved through the double team of Cunningham and Tristan Thompson, who had came from the middle of the lane to help prevent a score. The slight misdirection that Giannis employed with his body was enough to throw Thompson off and gave Antetokounmpo a clean one-handed stuff. But Giannis wasn’t done just yet with his spin move. Late in the fourth quarter, he squared off in a 1-v-1 situation against Tristan Thompson at the top of the perimeter. Giannis started his move off with a crossover to his left and seemed to be going left, until he pulled out his go-to move of the spin move, leaving Thompson helpless. The Greek Freak then flew viciously into the air and capitalized on what was an absolute ferocious dunk, and what was arguably his best highlight of his career night.
One of the keys to Giannis’ career performance was his awareness of playing tight defense, but not reckless defense. His rushed play on the defensive end of the ball has constricted his contributions for the Bucks numerous times this season, as he repeatedly has had to be substituted out due to foul trouble. Thankfully that was not the scenario last night, as he only committed three personal fouls. Instead, Giannis flipped the tables and was able to draw fouls from the Cavaliers. It wasn’t always the isolation crossovers that paved Giannis’ way to the hoop, but also off ball movement. Early on in the first quarter when Michael Carter-Williams was setting up a play at the top of the perimeter, Giannis was tangling body limbs with Dellavedova on the left wing. Eventually he bulled past him, culminating into a pretty bounce pass from Carter-Williams. Giannis then soared into the land of the giants down low, picking up a foul.
Giannis also achieved picking up fouls by driving to the rack, another one of his trademark characteristics. Near the end of the fourth quarter, Antetokounmpo was in an isolation play against arguably the game’s greatest player, LeBron James. Giannis used a quick crossover to get his footing past James and was awarded with the baseline, embedding LeBron in a distressing position. Giannis’ blunt force knocked James off his feet, emanating in LeBron picking up a foul and sending Antetokounmpo to the free throw line for two free throws. For as many times as Giannis seems to be a Tasmanian devil tearing through the lane and wildly throwing up shots, many times it ensues in the defense fouling him. With the size of both his strides and limbs, Giannis is able to create contact in many situations in the paint, something not too many other players have the capability of accomplishing.
The Greek Freak also treated us to a sample of his jump shot that is still under construction, but has improved drastically from last season. He knocked down two jumpers last night, one from the free throw line, as well as a corner three-pointer. This is something Antetokounmpo has put a lot of sweat and grind into during the offseason, as he feels once he adds a consistent jump shot to his repertoire, his game will ascend to a whole new dimension.
As Giannis continues to break the internet with his freakish plays and tremendous stat lines, its incredible to be reminded that he’s only 20 years old. He’s revolutionizing the game of basketball with his lankiness and style, and it only seems to be becoming better. If he keeps this level of play up, there’s a high chance that he may be selected as an All-Star reserve. But let’s not count our eggs before they hatch. There’s still a long way to go until then, and Giannis has bigger goals on his mind. But we do know one thing for sure. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a treat to watch, and we can’t wait to see what he has in store for us next.