Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night. The “Greek Freak” honked as he sped by Al Horford on the perimeter. He gave Jaylen Brown a combination of finesse and powerful finishing moves. He spun around some JAG named Daniel Theis.
But the do-it-all All-Star saved his best stuff for backup center Aron Baynes, whom he baptized at the rim on multiple occasions en route to a game-high 37 points on 13-for-22 shooting, along with 13 rebounds, three assists and three steals, in Milwaukee’s season-opening 108-100 win.
In the second quarter, Antetokounmpo received an entry pass from John Henson, pump-faked Baynes out of his shoes, and threw down on him — this time with two hands for good measure. The only advanced statistical tool that could measure just how brutally Antetokounmpo dunked all over Baynes is the Richter Scale.
Late in the second quarter, the 6-foot-11 Antetokounmpo used his verticality to alter Baynes’ attempt in the paint and promptly led the break. He drove hard right to the basket and stopped on a dime, splitting a double team from Brown and a flailing Baynes, then casually went up and under on the other side of the tin.
Giannis hassling Aron Baynes on both ends pic.twitter.com/hJvPO11gDB
— DJ Dunson (@CerebralSportex) October 19, 2017
By the fourth quarter, Baynes thought he’d solved their one-sided game of cat-and-mouse when he saw Antetokounmpo barreling down the lane, and stepped up to defend his dignity. In response, Antetokounmpo shoveled a pass to Henson for an easy jam.
Few players outside of Antetokounmpo or LeBron James can make 37-13-3-3 look like light work. Sixteen of the 37 came in the paint, and 11 came at the free throw line on 13 attempts. There’s only one glaring omission in Giannis’ line: zero treys. But if his advancements as a free throw shooter since his rookie year are any indication, Antetokounmpo stretching the floor as a reliable shooter isn’t far behind. He’s the superhero who returns each season after having been bitten by a new radioactive spider every summer.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens took note of how Antetokounmpo dismantled his defense. Baynes shouldn’t hang his head with shame. Until King James abdicates his throne, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis will jostle to be next in line. And, from the looks of things, they might have company.
Brad Stevens: "When you watched Giannis tonight, you thought, that's an MVP candidate right there."
— Ben Rohrbach (@brohrbach) October 19, 2017
Every year, Antetokounmpo raises the bar, and Wednesday’s performance against the Celtics was his opening salvo in what could be another quantum leap. This is expected to be Antetokounmpo’s inaugural MVP-caliber campaign, and he looks ready for the moment.