Prior to the suspension of the NBA season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the race for Most Valuable Player was starting to heat up. LeBron James, a four-time MVP winner in his own right, gained some momentum in early March when the Lakers picked up their most impressive victories of the season — after defeating the Bucks and Clippers on national television.
James averaged 28.5 points shooting 49.1% from the floor, 10 rebounds and nine assists across the two games, one week after he notched a season-high 40 points in a win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
In his 17th season, James is once again showcasing the ability to defeat father time. At age 34, he is averaging 25.7 points while recording a league-best 10.6 assists, but his recent stretch of games or graceful aging should not override the MVP caliber season Giannis Antetokounmpo has displayed since opening night.
Before going down with a knee sprain that sidelined him for the previous two games, Antetokounmpo was on pace to have one of the greatest individual seasons in league history. His Bucks were on the track to become the third team ever to win 70+ games (53-12), while putting up the most absurd numbers averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists, with a PER of 31.7 — the highest in the league.
What many considered to be his Achilles heel, Antetokounmpo seemed better than his previous run at MVP last season, as he developed a solid 3-point jumper shooting 30.6% from behind the arc.
The effects of the Coronavirus will leave an everlasting impact on the league and one that may result in not naming a champion — which will leave several unanswered questions for 2020. However, despite having 20 games left in the regular season, there is enough evidence to crown Anteokounmpo the league’s Most Valuable Player. Here’s a look back at Anteokoumpo’s top three games of the season.
30-point triple-double performance vs Rockets:
Opening night, inside the Toyota Center, proved Anteokoumpo was on a mission to erase a bitter end to the 2019 season. In a game that featured three of the last MVPs (Russell Westbrook and James Harden), Anteokoumpo shined the brightest as the Bucks took a 117-111 victory over the Houston Rockets.
In 28 minutes before fouling out, Anteokoumpo notched a triple-double of 30 points (64.7% FG, 40.0% 3PT), 13 boards, and 11 assists to help Milwaukee eliminate a nine-point deficit entering the fourth quarter. The Bucks opened the final period on a 13-3 run, which was ignited by Antetokounmpo — who scored eight points during the stretch.
Although the Bucks’ comeback win was a team effort, Milwaukee would likely have fallen short in Houston without Anteokoumpo at the helm.
The Greek Freak drops 41 points and 20 vs Hornets:
It was far from his toughest competition of the season, but the ridiculous stats line raised a question coaches are finding more difficult to solve, “How can you defend Giannis Anteokoumpo?”
Living up to the nickname, Greek Freak, Anteokoumpo was nearly unstoppable in Charlotte as the 51-8 Bucks came away with a 93-85 win over the Hornets. As an unstoppable force on the court, Antetokounmpo registered 41 points (17-28 FG) and 20 rebounds to go along with six assists on the night.
He scored in nearly every way imaginable with pick-and-rolls, fast-break dunks, drives to the basket, but the highlight of the night came late in the fourth quarter when Anteokoumpo connected on a highly contested fadeaway jumper to extend the Bucks’ lead by five.
A Monster 50-point night vs Jazz:
On a cold November night inside the Fiserv Forum, Anteokoumpo had one of the most dominant games of his career. Against one of the top defensive teams in the league, the 2019 MVP notched a season-best 50 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Bucks to a 122-118 win over the Utah Jazz — revenging a three-point loss two weeks earlier.
Milwaukee needed all 50 points to come away victorious against the Jazz, as Anteokoumpo led the Bucks on a second-half surge to outscore Utah 75-61 to close the game. As he walked off the court two-point shy of his career-high, Anteokoumpo left both his contemporaries and fans in awe — but even more so himself.
“I’m impressed, I’m not going to lie to you. Great game and all that. [This] the second 50-point game of my career. Doing it with zero turnovers and all that, that’s great.” — Anteokoumpo
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(Photo Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports)
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