LeBron James and the Cavaliers Couldn’t Handle Giannis Antetokounmpo


(Photo: Getty Images)

The Cleveland Cavaliers, firmly in first place in the Eastern Conference, opened a 14-point lead just seven minutes into their Tuesday-night tilt with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Then Giannis Antetokounmpo happened.

The Greek Freak, who will turn just 22 in a week, dropped a career-high 34 points on amazing 13-of-19 shooting to go with 12 rebounds, five assists, five steals, and two blocks to lead Milwaukee to a 118-101 victory and an 8-8 record.

He also spent much of the game defending LeBron James, who scored 22 points of 8-of-16 shooting but also turned the ball over seven times and dished just four assists.

"You can't simulate how long they are in the passing lanes," James said of the Bucks. "But four of my seven (turnovers) were unforced and that's careless."

Antetokounmpo's wingspan is 7'3". Milwaukee also employs Stretch Armstrongs in John Henson (7'5") and rookie Thon Maker (7'3").

The 15th overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft is enjoying a breakout season, averaging 22 points on 51.4 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds, 6 assists, 2.1 blocks, and 1.9 steals. And he's doing it without the aid of a jump shot.

Antetokounmpo is shooting just 18.8 percent from deep this year. Typically, that sort of non-threat from the outside results in a packed paint, with defenders gladly laying off to give said baller room to hoist ugly jumpers.

But Giannis is a freakish exception. Blessed with the raw physicality of a young LeBron and the height and length of Kevin Durant—with the ability to rack up more steals and blocks than either player can dream of—Antetokounmpo, with his relentless mind set and long strides, is almost impossible to keep out of the paint.

"He's getting better with hard work," said Bucks coach Jason Kidd after the win. "He was going against the best player in the world."