PHILADELPHIA — The final time the Milwaukee Bucks ended the common season with the NBA’s finest document, additionally they had the NBA’s Most Precious Participant.
Forty-five years later, historical past may be about to repeat itself.
Because of the most recent spectacular efficiency from Giannis Antetokounmpo — who completed with 45 factors, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 blocks in 35 minutes — the Bucks beat the Philadelphia 76ers 128-122 in entrance of a sellout crowd at Wells Fargo Middle. The victory clinched the perfect document and home-court benefit all through the upcoming NBA playoffs for the Bucks for the primary time since 1974 — when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar claimed the third of six MVP awards in his profession.
Along with his efficiency Thursday night time, Antetokounmpo not solely carried Milwaukee to a win, but additionally may need taken a big step towards claiming the primary MVP award of his profession. It got here in a sport wherein fellow All-Star Khris Middleton was restricted to 25 minutes coming off a groin damage and guard Eric Bledsoe was ejected lower than three minutes in following an altercation with 76ers star Joel Embiid.
“I feel the crew did a terrific job protecting its composure,” Antetokounmpo mentioned. “Clearly [Bledsoe] went to the locker room within the first quarter, however everyone stepped up. Guys got here in, hit massive pictures, performed protection, performed onerous, and it is massive for us. Quite a lot of guys are lacking … it simply feels good that we’ve got 12 guys, 15 guys which might be in a position on any given night time to step up and assist this crew.”
None of them, although, achieve this fairly like Antetokounmpo can — and like he did Thursday night time in locking up the highest seed within the Jap Convention for his crew.
“Yeah, that felt like a press release,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer mentioned. “Particularly with what he does defensively with the 5 blocks and 13 rebounds and modifications the sport … ending and making free throws.
“He is an MVP in our eyes, so we’ll hold him,” he added with amusing.
Antetokounmpo definitely performed prefer it on this one, dominating at each ends even because the Bucks have been enjoying with out Bledsoe for a lot of the night time, in addition to starter Malcolm Brogdon and key reserve Nikola Mirotic, who stay out with long-term accidents. And whereas Philadelphia was with out Jimmy Butler, who sat with again spasms, the Sixers maintained a lead for a lot of the second half.
Nevertheless it was Milwaukee that closed the sport out with a 15-Four run over the ultimate 2:53 to get the win — one which included seven factors on three straight baskets by George Hill (the final of which was a fast-break layup assisted by Antetokounmpo), adopted by Antetokounmpo getting a large block of an Embiid drive after which beginning one other quick break that resulted in a Sterling Brown layup that put the sport away for Milwaukee.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, proper, completed with 45 factors, 13 rebounds, six assists and 5 blocks in 35 minutes to energy the Bucks over the 76ers on Thursday night time. David Dow/NBAE/Getty Photographs
“It was an excellent win,” Hill mentioned. “Any time you are enjoying one of many playoff groups, the surroundings goes to be hostile — particularly on their dwelling courtroom. That is a very good ball crew over there. So it is good to search out methods to win once you will not be enjoying effectively, you will not be making pictures, with everybody digging deep and discovering methods to win.”
Now the Bucks have three extra video games left to attempt to get to 60 wins for simply the fifth time in franchise historical past and Antetokounmpo has three extra video games to attempt to impress voters for the league’s MVP award.
“I do not like speaking about myself, speaking concerning the MVP,” Antetokounmpo mentioned. “As I’ve mentioned previously, should you hold successful, it is going to care for itself.”
Like he has so many instances this season, Antetokounmpo made positive the Bucks gained once more Thursday night time.