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Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Anthony Davis: Breaking down the NBA MVP candidate showdown that did not disappoint

Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Anthony Davis: Breaking down the NBA MVP candidate showdown that did not disappoint

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MILWAUKEE — The much-anticipated matchup between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis was in danger of being derailed late in the first quarter, when Davis landed awkwardly after challenging for a rebound with D.J. Wilson. He limped off the court and straight to the locker room — something he’s unfortunately made a habit of, both this season and throughout his career.

But strangely, when the Pelicans‘ PR department released an update on Davis’ condition, they said he was questionable to return due to an illness, not an ankle injury. In his absence, Jahlil Okafor suddenly transformed into the player the Sixers were hoping he would be when they made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft, dropping 17 points in 13 minutes.

Okafor’s effort was instrumental in keeping the Pelicans close until Davis came back — which he did in the middle of the third quarter. From there, we finally got the rest of the duel we were hoping for, with each player coming up with big plays down the stretch. Davis finished the game with 27 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocks, while Giannis recorded 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. The Greek Freak also got the win, as the Bucks pulled away for a 123-115 victory, their fifth in six games.

Despite the early injury and/or illness scare for Davis, the game mostly lived up to the hype, with plenty of points, highlight reel plays and strong performances between two MVP candidates. Even in defeat, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry was still able to appreciate seeing the rare matchup.

“They’re two great players. I love Giannis,” Gentry told CBS Sports after the game. “I love the way he plays, I think he approaches the game the right way. I think he’s a little bit old school in that he’s not trying to be friends with everybody in the league. He likes his teammates, he plays hard and he competes at a real, real high level. The thing I like best about him is that every year he improves his game. He’s added something to his game, and he’ll continue to get better. You gotta realize how young he is also. AD is 25, I think Giannis is 23, 24 (he turned 24 earlier this month), so you’re talking about two young star players who play the game the right way out there.”

With the facts and figures all sorted out, and the nice quotes delivered, let’s now take a closer look at how each guy played on Wednesday night.

3-point shooting

There wasn’t much surprise in this aspect of the game. For a stretch this season, it seemed like Giannis was making a concerted effort to put up triples, regardless of whether or not they were going down. Most of them weren’t though, and he’s given up on that experiment lately. He didn’t take a single one in this game, and in eight games in December, he’s taken just 13 3s.

Davis, on the other hand, is more than capable of knocking down the 3-ball, which is one of the main reasons he’s so difficult to guard. Though he’s struggling a bit this season, shooting under 33 percent, he had it working against the Bucks, going 4-of-9 from behind the arc.

Advantage: Davis.

Highlight reel plays

In the least surprising news ever, both stars had their share of thrilling moments in this game. Davis got things started by schooling Giannis on the fastbreak with a nifty behind-the-back move.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Bucks game without Giannis throwing down a crazy dunk.

Advantage: It’s a draw.

Playmaking

Yet another element that each of these stars possess is the ability to make plays for their teammates. Davis’ passing is much-improved this season, and he’s averaging a career-high 4.7 assists. He’s not going to make crazy, highlight reel passes like his Greek counterpart, but Davis often draws multiple defenders, and is doing a solid job finding the open man.

But while Davis is clearly the better rim protector, Giannis is clearly the better playmaker of the bunch, and that was no different in this game, as he finished with eight assists. The Bucks’ new and improved offense has given him plenty of space to operate, and he’s taken full advantage. Not only is he getting all sorts of dunks and easy baskets every night, but he’s setting up his teammates as well. He already has two-triple doubles this season, and is dishing out a career-high six assists per game.

Advantage: Giannis.

Rim protection

From pretty much the moment he entered the league, Davis has been one of the best rim protectors around. He’s led the league in blocks in three different seasons throughout his career, and is currently second this season at 2.8 blocks per game. The Greek Freak isn’t quite on that level, but he’s no slouch in his own right, averaging at least a block per game every season since his rookie campaign.

And on this night, Davis showed exactly why he’s so tough to score on inside. Not long after he returned from his illness, Davis came over from the weak side and rejected Giannis at the rim. Though the Bucks star did recover the ball and draw a foul, it was still an incredible play.

Advantage: Davis.

There was little to separate the two stars on this night. While Davis may have had the more spectacular plays, Giannis and the Bucks got the win. And in the end, they both have each other’s respect.

“Anthony Davis is a great guy, obviously he’s one of the best players in the league,” Giannis said after the game. “And whenever you have the opportunity to play against those guys, you go as hard as you can to establish yourself in this league also. I think he’s doing a great job helping his team, but tonight we did a great job defending him. Anything he did was tough, so it was good for us.”

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Posted by smashdownsportsnews on 2018-12-20 07:47:23

Tagged: , Basketball , News , Featured

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