Despite some MVP caliber efforts from Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks have not been a good team in the fourth quarter this season.
Entering Sunday’s game against the LA Clippers, the Bucks had won just one game this season when trailing or tied entering the fourth quarter. That put them at a sizeable disadvantage as they trailed the Clippers 81-77 after three quarters in their matchup.
With Milwaukee’s back against the wall, Antetokounmpo took over the game in the final 12 minutes. The reigning two-time MVP displayed his dominance as he scored 17 of the Bucks’ final 22 points by shooting a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor, which included a clutch triple.
The most notable bucket for Antetokounmpo came in the closing seconds down the stretch, as Giannis hammered it home to give Milwaukee a 103-100 lead.
Thanks to the Greek Freak’s clutch efforts, the Bucks were able to come out with a 105-100 win over a top-tier opponent in the Clippers. Antetokounmpo’s fourth quarter showing has been the most significant headline to come out of this one, and justifiably so.
Following Milwaukee’s massive victory over Los Angeles, Giannis now leads the NBA in fourth quarter scoring with 8.2 points, per NBA.com/stats. He is doing it at a highly efficient rate by shooting 91-of-154 (59.1 percent) from the floor and an eye-opening 12-of-32 (37.5 percent) from behind the arc.
As evidenced in Sunday’s win, Antetokounmpo can take over a game offensively in the final quarter. Although he has widely been criticized for his inability to close out games in the past, he certainly quieted the chatter with a show-stopping performance yesterday.
It should be noted that Giannis was not putting up these numbers with ease, as he was getting checked by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George consistently, two of the best wing defenders in the association. Despite getting pestered on the offensive end, Antetokounmpo was able to will this team to a win by scoring the ball from all over the floor, coming up clutch for the Bucks time and time again.
While the two-time MVP has been superb offensively in the fourth quarter, his defense deserves praise as well. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year is tied for fifth with 14 total blocks this during final frames, which has been huge.
No example of this defensive prowess is more timely than Antetokounmpo’s block on Clippers’ center Ivica Zubac with just over eight minutes left to play in Sunday’s game. Trailing by five in need of a stop defensively, Antetokounmpo stepped in front of the big man and blocked his shot with authority.
Had Giannis not stepped in, it would have been an easy dunk by Zubac to put the Clippers up seven. Instead, the Bucks got the stop, which seemed to be the ultimate turning point in the game during the closing minutes.
After the win, Antetokounmpo detailed what it felt like going toe-to-toe with one of the league’s best teams down the stretch. Per ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk: