After a 2-2 start to the season, you may have had reason to believe the Milwaukee Bucks might ease their way into the 2019-20 regular season.
After their first 60-win season in 30 years, and just their second trip beyond the first round in the same time period, you could probably forgive them for taking some time to hit top gear with another NBA season grind ahead of them.
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Instead, they have shaken off the stuttering start to simply destroy the competition, going 36-4 from that moment, led by reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo was plagued by foul trouble early against the Brooklyn Nets, picking up his third foul with 9:30 remaining in the first half. Rather than let that derail their chances of another road win, the Bucks kept their foot down, heading into the halftime break with a 57-42 edge despite Antetokounmpo being limited to 13 minutes of court time.
Of course, limiting minutes for star players has become the norm for Mike Budenholzer and the Bucks, as they put an entirely new spin on the term "load management."
Antetokounmpo finished the night with 29 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in just 25 minutes, though this should not really come as a surprise.
Incredibly, Antetokounmpo fell just one-point shy of adding to his NBA single season record of seven 30-plus point outings in under 30 minutes. It's at this time I would like to remind everyone that the Bucks have just completed their 44th game of the season. They have 38 remaining.
Giannis scored 37 PTS in 22 minutes tonight.- NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) January 15, 2020
Most games with 30+ PTS in less than 30 minutes in a single season since 1976-77:
7 - Giannis Antetokounmpo, 2019-20
6 - Stephen Curry, 2015-16
5 - Paul Westphal, 1977-78
5 - Freeman Williams, 1980-81
5 - George Gervin, 1981-82 pic.twitter.com/dhy8eqFdAf
On the season, he is averaging 30.0 points, 12.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists in just 30.6 mintes per game.
If those averages hold, Antetokounmpo will join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor as the only players to average those marks over the course of an NBA season.
Oh yeah, Chamberlain averaged 47.3 and 46.1 minutes per game in the seasons he reached those marks, Robertson 44.3 and Baylor 42.9.
It must be noted that the 3-point shot was not available to the three currently in the record books, but just for reference, the most games Antetokounmpo can play in this season will be 79 given he has already missed three games.
If he plays 79 games at current pace, he will total 2,417 minutes on the season. This will fall 719 minutes shy of Baylor's 30-10-5 season in 1960-61, when he appeared in just 73 games.
Comparing MVP seasons
Last season, Antetokounmpo recieved 78 out of a possible 101 first place votes for the 2019 MVP.
All he's done since that clear cut MVP win is get better statistically while spending significantly less time on the floor.
We haven't even mentioned the fact that the one universal critique of his game, the outside shot, is more than just coming around, it's starting to look legit.
A CAREER-HIGH 5 threes from Giannis! #FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/3UDW1ohV5z- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) December 20, 2019
After going 2-for-14 from range in October, Antetokounmpo has buried 79 of his 195 attempts - good for 33 percent. His 81 makes from deep have already obliterated his previous career-high of 52 in a season.
LeBron James is a marvel at age 35, while Luka Doncic is doing unfathmoable things at 20, but are we simply overthinking the process and overlooking the greatness of "The Greek Freak"?
The Bucks are 7.5 games clear at the top of the East, they own the league's best defence, the league's third best offence and they are on pace to win 70-plus games.
It might be time to stop talking about Giannis' future and take note of the present.
What Antetokounmpo is doing is special, and should not be ignored.
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