NBA

Giannis hailed by Middleton after joining Wilt and Kareem in elite club: 'He made it look easy'

By Sports Desk February 09, 2022

Giannis Antetokounmpo produced another eye-catching display to help the Milwaukee Bucks to victory over the Los Angeles Lakers and was hailed by team-mate Khris Middleton for "making it look easy".

The two-time NBA MVP scored 44 points on 17-for-20 shooting, while registering eight assists and 14 rebounds as the Bucks earned a 131-116 victory in Tuesday's contest at the Crypto.com Arena.

In doing so, Antetokounmpo joined legendary figures Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as only the third person with 40+ points, 10+ rebounds and five-or-more assists on 85-per-cent-plus shooting in a game.

Indeed, the 27-year-old has now had three games with 40+ points, 10+ rebounds, five-plus assists and no turnovers. Over the past 30 years, only David Robinson and Dirk Nowitzki have achieved that feat, doing so once each.

Middleton, who scored all 21 of his points in the first half, was blown away by the ease in which Antetokounmpo took apart the lacklustre Lakers, who had LeBron James and Anthony Davis in their line-up.

"He made it look easy, honestly," Middleton said. "That just shows the level of how he's playing. 

"He was knocking down his jump shot. He's got guys going for his pump fake. Just the way he let the game come to him and stay patient, it was pretty fun to watch."

 

The 44 points registered by Antetokounmpo was his second-highest tally of the season, behind only the 47 he managed against the same opponents on November 17.

He is third in terms of points scorers in NBA this season with 1,343, behind DeMar DeRozan (1,360) and Trae Young (1,364), while only Joel Embiid (29.4) averages more points per game than his 29.2.

Reflecting on another good day both personally and for the Bucks, who have now won four in a row to move to 35-21 for the campaign, Antetokounmpo said: "Obviously when you make shots, the game is a lot easier, looks a lot better.

"I know I'm going to try to get my team-mates involved and look for the best way to help the team, but sometimes when you start making shots, you feel better about yourself, you defend better. Today was one of those games."

The victory was perhaps not as straightforward in the end as it might have been for the Bucks, who led by 30 points midway through the third quarter, only to let the Lakers back into the game.

But the hosts could only claw back to within 10 points of their opponents and have now lost five of their last seven games, seeing them fall back to three games below .500.

"We played a terrible defensive half," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. "Disposition, competition, the level of competitive spirit we showed for a big game was very disappointing. 

"Two straight games we started with a terrible defensive half. We've got to get that right."

The Lakers will get that opportunity to put it right when they take on the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, while the Bucks are next in action on Thursday with a showdown against the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns.

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