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Giannis MVP Watch: Bucks vs. Celtics II

Antetokounmpo pinned Jaylen Brown’s late-game shot attempt like LeBron James

Milwaukee Bucks “point forward” Giannis Antetokounmpo is the wild card among the candidates to win the NBA’s MVP award (James Harden is the favorite). Antetokounmpo, a native of Greece who turned 23 in December, is a mixture of the size, speed, lankiness, raw power and finesse that’s only seen in the so-called “unicorns” of the league (New York’s Kristaps Porziņgis and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons). But Antetokounmpo appears to have the most upside of any of those players, and he is slowly nipping at James’ heels for most dominant athlete in the league.

The Undefeated will track Antetokounmpo’s performances that add to his burgeoning MVP candidacy through our “Giannis MVP Watch.” You can catch up on previous entries here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI, Part XII, Part XIII, Part XIV, Part XV, Part XVI, Part XVII, Part XVIII.

What did he do?

29 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks on 50 percent shooting in a 106-102 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night.

Did he dunk on someone?

Where to begin? Antetokounmpo received the ball behind the 3-point line, charged to his left, hit the spin cycle on Celtics center Al Horford at the free throw line and stretched out the length of however long this flat Earth is to slam over Horford and former Bucks center Greg Monroe from the top of the restricted area. Antetokounmpo’s spin was so smooth that he made Horford complete a Kenny Smith 360: a degree measurement uttered by the TNT commentator during the annual NBA dunk contest that is actually half of whatever number he said.

You know who didn’t get dunked on Tuesday night? Aron Baynes. The sixth-year center had become the Batman to Antetokounmpo’s Bane earlier in the season, so it was quite the development that Antetokounmpo didn’t yam on Baynes for old time’s sake. But don’t you fret, Antetokounmpo still put the big man on the Summer Jam screen after Baynes had the nerve to attempt a hook shot in the (not) house that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar built. Needless to say, the shot attempt got nowhere close to the rim.

Did he make a crazy play?

For someone who hasn’t played basketball for that long, Antetokounmpo has mastered the art of the Fancy Pass. The Melanin Matt Birk has hiked the ball through his legs to a streaking Khris Middleton and run the hook-and-ladder with his running mate Jabari Parker. On Tuesday, Antetokounmpo added to his burgeoning repertoire, first tossing a crosscourt pass like his fellow Wisconsin superstar Aaron Rodgers, and later running a fast break swamped by two defenders and tossing the ball between his legs to a trailing Eric Bledsoe. The pass was so unanticipated that it nearly triggered one of those “basketball synchronicity” glitches that have been widely documented this season, with defenders Abdel Nader and Marcus (and/or Markieff) Morris both turning at the same time to try to contest Bledsoe’s shot.

What was his MVP moment?

The Bucks lost 128-125 to the Denver Nuggets in overtime on Sunday because late in the fourth quarter they couldn’t close out the game despite leading by three points with three seconds left in regulation.

Antetokounmpo wasn’t going to let that happen again.

After Middleton had a 3-point attempt blocked, Celtics guard Jaylen Brown sprinted down the court for a fast-break layup that would have cut the Bucks’ lead to three with less than 54 seconds left in the fourth. And just as Baynes had disrespected the BMO Harris Bradley Center earlier in the game with a hook shot, Brown had the nerve — no, the unmitigated gall — to attempt a Euro step in the home of Oakland Gyros. Antetokounmpo would have none of that, as he sailed in from out of nowhere to pull out the most clutch-pinning block since LeBron James stole Andre Iguodala’s soul in the 2016 NBA Finals.

Antetokounmpo went on to make two late free throws to put the Bucks up for good at 105-100, leading the Bucks (42-36) to their first back-to-back winning seasons since the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons.

Martenzie Johnson is a senior writer for Andscape. His favorite cinematic moment is when Django said, "Y'all want to see somethin?"