Giannis stops Joel Embiid as the Bucks grab late win against 76ers
In what could be called the 'Battle of the MVPs' it was the Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, who got the better of Joel Embiid and the 76ers on Tuesday night.
After a dramatic loss in the final moments of the game tempers were clearly still running hot, but maybe Philadelphia's big man isn't wide of the mark with his views.
Giannis Antetokounmpo went crazy against the Sixers
With 3:37 left on the clock in the third quarter and an 82-72 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks, the 76ers' Joel Embiid stepped off the court and took a seat on the bench. As Philly's MVP candidate did so he must have felt relatively sure that his team could close out the period and in turn go on to win the game. It had of course been a tit for tat affair all night, but with a double figure lead late in the third, surely a win was on the cards, wasn't it?
The answer to that question was apparently part of a script that Giannis Antetokounmpo did not read. The two time league MVP went on a 15 point run which brought the score to 91-87 with 10:36 left in the fourth quarter. Moments later Embiid was reintroduced, but it was sadly too late. Now in full swing, the Bucks would battle their way to the climatic final possession when Giannis himself blocked Embiid's put-back attempt. There were immediate calls for 'goaltending,' but in the end the decision stood and with it a 118-116 comeback win for the Bucks. Even more importantly, the victory gave them sole possession of 2nd place in the Eastern Conference, a one-game lead in the table and the tiebreaker over the Sixers.
76ers' Joel Embiid is not happy
Speaking post game, Philly's center didn't shy away from the fact that his team had no answer for Giannis in the third quarter, indeed Embiid went on to directly criticize the team's tactics. "The game really changed when I went on the bench," Embiid said. "I didn't think we did [a good enough job] at the end of that third quarter, beginning of the fourth. Their best player scored 17 points in a row or whatever that was. I didn't think we did what we had to do. They made that run and they cut the lead, and they gained some momentum and it carried over."
Embiid was then asked what could have been done differently in terms of stopping the Bucks star, to which responded by pointing out that he himself was on the bench for the entirety of Giannis' run. "I mean, I was on the bench the whole time," Embiid said. "When I was on the floor, I really made sure I was always there to help. I thought we didn't follow up that strategy, we didn't build a wall, and he had a lot of freedom to just attack and get whatever he wanted. That changed the game. Maybe next time, just match up the minutes."
Will the real MVP please stand up?
While there is definitely merit to the view that Embiid should be matching Antetokounmpo for minutes anytime they face off, one could reasonably ask whether or not it would make a difference? On the night Giannis poured in a game-high 40 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks - including the final one on Embiid - to help the Bucks overcome the 76ers. Embiid for his part registered 29 points and 14 rebounds, which is credible no doubt, but the divide between the two was noticeable.
There has of course been a great deal of talk about Embiid this season and his potential MVP status, however, when we consider that two time MVP, Antetokounmpo has now scored 30 points or more in seven of his last eight games and 32 times this season, the view becomes a little less clear. Interestingly, Giannis' latest numbers actually take his scoring average to 29.89 points per game, tying him with Embiid for second in the NBA behind LeBron James who is putting up 30.13 points per game. That is all to say we've got the makings of an intense battle for the MVP title. On the other hand if Giannis continues to perform like he did on Tuesday night, we'll probably be looking at a 3rd MVP title for the 'Greek Freak' come end of season.