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Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo makes MVP statement in win over 76ers

For the second straight meeting, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid put on a show.

The last time they met, Antetokounmpo dropped a career-high 52 points in a loss to Embiid who led the way with 40 points and 15 rebounds.

Antetokounmpo got the upper hand this time, delivering 45 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks to outduel Embiid who finished with a 34-point triple-double.

There's a lot to unpack in this one so let's get right to it.

Giannis makes an MVP statement

Mike Budenholzer agrees.

Despite being perhaps the favourite to win the MVP award, there's no denying that Giannis Antetokounmpo is devoid of the seemingly endless MVP moments that James Harden has put forth throughout the season.

The Greek Freak's MVP campaign is built on a combination of overall greatness, sustained team success, unmatched two-way impact and breathtaking physical prowess. There's not really a singular moment to point and say "that's why he's the MVP."

MORE: Pau compares Giannis to Kobe

Which is why games like this matter, especially coming down the stretch of a tight MVP race.

Outside of his most recent game against the 76ers in which he exploded for a career-high 52 points, there haven't been the clutch clutch game winners, the comparisons with Wilt or the "you need to turn on League Pass right now, Giannis is going off" games. And even in that contest back in March, the Bucks lost.

If there's an MVP moment for Antetokounmpo, it may have been this game in which he not only got the upper hand on Embiid, but repeatedly attacked him on both ends. Of his five blocks, four came against Embiid including an emphatic meeting at the rim in the first half and a swat in the closing minutes with the game in balance.

When Embiid found Mike Scott to put Philadelphia up six in the fourth quarter, he responded with a dunk on Embiid at the other end.

When Embiid drained a three to put Philadelphia up seven on the very next possession, he responded with a three of his own to get it right back.

In a game the 76ers' center put forth perhaps the best all-around performance of his career, the Greek Freak responded and then some, hitting back every single time that Philadelphia out the Bucks on the ropes.

It was a performance worthy of an MVP and could end up being the cherry on top of his breakout season.

Giannis vs Embiid is a must-see-matchup

The last time they met, Antetokounmpo and Embiid had us asking if it was the best individual matchup in the NBA.

MORE: Which 1-on-1 matchup do you most want to see in the playoffs?

After this one, it's hard to argue otherwise if only for how the game played out.

As mentioned above, the two went at each other relentlessly on both ends and in ways that stretch the imagination.

We don't necessarily think of Embiid as picking apart and punishing a rotating defence with his passing yet it's exactly what he did.

We don't necessarily think of Antetokounmpo as a back-to-the-basket centre yet there he was at time posting up one of the best post-up defenders in the entire league.

Though both seven-footers routinely wreak havoc in the paint, there they were trading three-balls on back-to-back possessions down the stretch of a tight game.

Whatever it is about their head-to-head matchups, it's clear that Antetokounmpo and Embiid simply bring out the best in one another. With Milwaukee playing Antetokounmpo at the five for prolonged stretches in this game, we got to see them going up against one another plenty of times down the floor.

These last two matchups have left me salivating and wanting more. Which brings me to ...

This would be an awesome playoff series

Any combination of the top four in the East presents a fun series. The Bucks, 76ers, Celtics and Raptors are all intriguing teams with high ceilings that present plenty of interesting wrinkles.

None might be more entertaining than Bucks-76ers.

Had the 76ers not imploded down the stretch, we'd be making a big deal about how they are just the second team to beat the Bucks twice this season.

Take a bow, Phoenix Suns!

The aforementioned one-on-one battle is self explanatory.

But Philadelphia also showed it can present some serious issues for Milwaukee. The 76ers are perhaps the only team in the league that catch match the Bucks' length and that was evident in this meeting.

Ben Simmons had several defensive plays in transition in which he stayed attached to Antetokounmpo's hip and matched his strength, a combination that very few players - if any - can match.

The 6'8" Mike Scott, starting in place of Jimmy Butler who did not play, drained six shots from beyond the arc and at times played the part of Eastern Conference P.J. Tucker, a floor stretching presence on one end and big, physical defender on the other.

Rookie Zhaire Smith, playing in just his third game after missing the vast majority of the season, flashed some athleticism that could come in handy against the likes of Eric Bledsoe.

The key to it all might be Ben Simmons. Although he finished with 13 assists, he shot just five times and was for long stretches ignored by Antetokounmpo who technically guarded Simmons while actually playing center field and causing mayhem as a help defender. It doesn't need to be with outside shooting, but if Simmons can make Antetokounmpo work, especially when Milwaukee goes small, that could be enough to shift a series that might be decided on the margins.

Should these teams meet in the playoffs, expect a long and competitive series.

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