MILWAUKEE — As the seconds ticked down in the second quarter on Thursday night, Giannis Antetokounmpo grabbed a rebound under his own basket, turned, and began racing up the floor the other way. After a few long strides, he fired the ball ahead to Bobby Portis, who buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Fiserv Forum erupted, Portis and Giannis broke out a shimmy – “taking it back to the ’90s,” Khris Middleton joked – and the Milwaukee Bucks took a 77-38 lead into the break.
It was a quintessential Giannis moment. The Bucks were already in a great place, and no one would have blamed him for letting the clock run out or launching a half-hearted half-courter. But instead of being satisfied, he pushed himself and his teammates for more, and was rewarded for his effort.
“Those kinds of plays. I think it’s the right play, it’s competing for every second, it’s competing for every opportunity,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think it’s just him trying to squeeze every bit that he can out of the game. That’s how he plays, that’s what we need.”
The 39-point margin Giannis helped create was the largest halftime deficit for the Golden State Warriors since the franchise moved to California back in 1963. Similarly, it was the second-biggest halftime lead in Bucks franchise history. On nights like this, the halftime buzzer may as well be the final one. In a relaxed and forgetful second half, the Bucks coasted to a 118-99 win.
In yet another leading effort, Giannis finished with 30 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and three blocks on 11 of 17 from the field. This was his third triple-double of the season, and the 28th of his career, which puts him level with Michael Jordan for 18th on the all-time list. Even more impressive, he led both teams in points, scoring, assists and blocks; no one had pulled off that feat in fewer than 30 minutes since 1974. You could go on and on with fun and obscure stats like that from this game, but you don’t really need any more to understand that this was another dominant performance from Giannis.
Since the calendar flipped to 2022, Giannis has been operating on a different level, even for himself. He’s putting up 32.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and eight assists per game, while shooting 59.5 percent from the field. All of it was on display against the Warriors: his unstoppable drives to the rim, his playmaking – especially impressive lately, just watch his pass to Grayson Allen early in the first quarter – his all-around defensive brilliance.
But despite playing what could reasonably be described as a perfect game, Giannis wasn’t interested in his stats or the results. Instead, he returned once again to some of his favorite subjects: defense and building good habits.
“I’m happy, I think we built good habits today,” Giannis said. “Defensively, especially. I don’t really pay attention offensively, but defensively we built very good habits. We were helping one another, we took the assignment of guarding one of the best players in the league. We did it together. It wasn’t just [Wesley Matthews], it wasn’t just [Khris Middleton], or whoever. It was all of us together. So that’s a good habit.”
“At the end of the day we just have to keep building good habits moving forward,” Giannis continued. “Big games with big excitement, or even games that nobody watches, nobody cares about. We have to keep building good habits so we can be good in May and June.”
Quintessential Giannis. Never content, never satisfied; always trying to be better, always thinking of the next challenge.