“The Greek Freak” is no Greek myth.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is everything the advertising states — 6-11, 222 pounds, long arms, long legs, long on athleticism, enough that he has the ability to play forward or either guard spot for Milwaukee.
“Just his appetite of wanting to be not just good, but great, is high,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “That’s just exciting to be around.”
The Knicks were charged with trying to contain the 22-year-old rising star Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Lance Thomas saw a lot of Antetokounmpo and tried hard to keep him from wrecking the Knicks’ hopes of stopping their five-game slide. But he wrecked them anyway. Antetokounmpo backed in against Thomas, then stepped back from the foul line and hit a jumper at the buzzer to give Milwaukee a 105-104 win.
“Lance played tough ‘D’ and he made a tough shot,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said.
That shot gave Antetokounmpo 27 points to go with 13 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and one steal. Yet the play wasn’t even designed for him during a timeout with 8.6 seconds left. It was for Jason Terry.
“He wasn’t open, so I had to shoot the ball,” Antetokounmpo said. “I was patient. I knew I could shoot the ball over the top of anybody at any time. I wanted to make sure I took the last shot.
“It feels great.”
Antetokounmpo is having a breakout fourth season, averaging 23.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.9 blocks and 2.0 steals. You know who has averaged at least those numbers for an entire season in the history of the NBA? Trick question. The answer would be no one.
His 13 games of at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists rank fourth behind Russell Westbrook, James Harden and LeBron James.
“He’s long,” Hornacek said. “He can spin, and when he spins, he covers area.”
In the fourth quarter, Antetokounmpo stole a pass by Carmelo Anthony and sailed in for a slam that cut the Knicks’ lead to 95-91. Antetokounmpo delivered a three-point play and followed with two free throws to cut the lead to 102-101 with 2:37 on the clock.
“Right now, I am really comfortable,” he said.
Antetokounmpo set up his own winning play by knocking an inbounds pass away from Derrick Rose. The ball deflected out of bounds off the Knicks’ point guard with 8.6 seconds left. The Greek Freak can play defense, too.
“He’s been working extremely hard on all facets of his game,” teammate Greg Monroe said. “His production on a nightly basis is just coming out of his hard work. He’s only going to continue to get better.”