On Wednesday, Milwaukee Bucks‘ star Giannis Antetokounmpo was poked and prodded by the Detroit Pistons. Two days later, on his 25th birthday, he got his revenge on Kawhi Leonard, who led the Toronto Raptors as they eliminated the Bucks last spring, when the Bucks beat his new team, the Los Angeles Clippers.
The inspiration for Monday night’s home matchup with the Orlando Magic is simply to continue the success that has brought the Bucks to a 14-game winning streak and the best record in the Eastern Conference at 20-3.
Antetokounmpo is scoring a conference-best 30.8 points per game, which is up to 31.9 during a winning streak that started on Nov. 10 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
During a month’s worth of victories, the reigning NBA MVP has a 50-point contest against the Utah Jazz (Nov. 25) and a triple-double against the Portland Trail Blazers (Nov. 21) when he had 24 points, 19 rebounds and a career-best 15 assists.
Without a clear way to stop Antetokounmpo, the Pistons tried to rattle the 6-foot-11 forward in a physical game Wednesday that included six technical fouls. Refusing to take the bait and retaliate, the Bucks star instead turned in a 35-point performance and a 127-103 blowout victory.
“Obviously, yes, I’m a little more confident with my jump shot,” Antetokounmpo said about the difference in his game this year as opposed to last. “I believe in myself more. I think my teammates believe in me even more this year. But I’m just aggressive. I think since the year started, I’ve been on a mission to help my team win every night and I’ve stayed on that path.”
The Magic will enter on a winning streak of their own, taking a season-best four-game run to Milwaukee. But those came against the likes of the Golden State Warriors, Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Bucks represent a giant step up in class from those teams.
Terrence Ross is coming off a team-best 21-point night against the Cavaliers, his second consecutive game of at least 20 points and his third on the season. Evan Fournier leads the Magic with 19.7 points per game, while Nikola Vucevic has 11.6 rebounds per game to go along with 17.1 points.
But the Magic are just 3-7 on the road this season, with two of those road victories coming since Tuesday. Now they go to Milwaukee where the Bucks are 10-1 at home.
In recent victories over the Wizards and Suns, the Magic scored 127 and 128 points respectively. At Cleveland on Friday it was a far different pace in a 93-87 victory. It might have been an ugly one to some, but the Magic felt comfortable with the grind-it-out style.
“It’s just a matter of getting back to Magic basketball, which is a hard-playing team, out-execute teams and just be disciplined defensively,” Fournier said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
–Field Level Media