We're nearing the Super Bowl of the NBA regular season so far as the two teams that have been commanding the league are set to clash for the first time.
What happens when two unstoppable forces go head-to-head?
I'm not sure if even Sir Isaac Newton himself knows the answer to these dominant physics-defying superstars.
The Milwaukee Bucks were riding the league's longest win streak in four years entering the week, winners of 18 consecutive games. The Los Angeles Lakers were chasing history after winning 14 straight games on the road. While each team's respective streak was snapped ahead of this marquee matchup, it doesn't take away any juice from this matchup as they still possess the two best records - and two of the best players - in the NBA.
LeBron James, in the 17th year of his illustrious NBA career, is looking like he's hit a new prime. Giannis Antetokounmpo, fresh off of his first Most Valuable Player award, is looking set to win back-to-back MVPs through the first quarter of the season.
MORE: Who leads in the MVP race right now?
And whether you realize it or not, these two superstars have more of a history against each other than you'd think.
In 18 games, James holds a 14-4 record over Antetokounmpo. Every meeting has come in the regular season, as these two have never met in the playoffs. This year's NBA Finals, perhaps, could be the first time.
Take a look at their head-to-head stats through those 18 games.
|Player||Record||FG% / 3P% / FT%||RPG||APG||SPG||BPG||PPG|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||4-14||55.0 / 32.4 / 82.1||8.5||4.4||1.1||1.2||21.7|
|LeBron James||14-4||54.4 / 44.4 / 70.9||7.2||6.8||1.1||0.7||27.6|
Some notes about those matchups:
- Antetokounmpo lost his first five games against James.
- Since Giannis's first All-Star season in 2016-17, LeBron still has his number, winning six of the nine games they've played.
- Antetokounmpo beat James in their only meeting last season, though James posted the more impressive stat line.
And lastly, these two had some battles in LeBron's final season in Cleveland.
During the 2017-18 season, this new rivalry between the longtime best player in the league and the player looking to take that torch went to another level.
James still went 3-1 in their four meetings, but it was clear that Antetokounmpo was stating his case as the NBA's next great player.
During that four game stretch, LeBron averaged 33.3 points, 8.5 assists, 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.0 blocks shooting 57.5% from the field and 50.0% from 3-point range. Antetokounmpo was equally as impressive, posting 34.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks shooting 67.5% from the field.
Of the best duels among those games, there was none better than James notching a 40-point triple-double to edge Antetokounmpo's 37 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
But you could make the case for Giannis' near-triple-double of 27 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and game-sealing and-one to outlast a 39-point outing from LeBron.
An intriguing takeaway from those four games, and the one time these two squared off in last season, is that James doesn't matchup with Antetokounmpo all that often. Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo is almost always marking James.
At least, that was the case before Anthony Davis entered the picture.
Since matchup data was made available by NBA stats in 2017-18, LeBron has only guarded Giannis on 37 partial possessions. In comparison, Giannis has guarded LeBron on 114 partial possessions.
Although the sample size is much larger, the numbers still favour James in that instance. See for yourself.
The imbalance of sample size makes that tough to break down, but it's clear that James doesn't fear being defended by Antetokounmpo. That, along with the lopsided win-loss record, shows that LeBron has handled the reigning MVP to this point in their careers.
Can Giannis and the Bucks knock off LeBron and the Lakers to prove they're the No. 1 contenders for this year's NBA title? Or will James' rule over Antetokounmpo continue as the road warrior-Lakers look to hand Milwaukee their second-straight loss?
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.