Welcome to "One Play!" Throughout the 2020-21 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff will break down certain possessions from certain games and peel back the curtains to reveal its bigger meaning.
Today, Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo takes the spotlight.
Context: What a game.
The Bucks picked up their best win of the season on Sunday (ET), defeating the LA Clippers by a final score of 105-100. Khris Middleton made his presence felt with 19 points, eight assists and six rebounds, but it was Antetokounmpo who stole the show for Milwaukee.
In addition to scoring a game-high 36 points on 15-for-27 shooting from the field, Antetokounmpo recorded 14 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and one steal. The Clippers had no answer for him.
Antetokounmpo punctuated his performance with a huge dunk in the closing seconds that served as the nail in the coffin.
Let's take a closer look.
Breakdown: The Bucks close the game on the small side with Jrue Holiday, Donte DiVincenzo, Pat Connaughton, Middleton and Antetokounmpo. The Clippers go small themselves with Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris and Nicolas Batum.
Up by one point with 24.2 seconds remaining in the game, Holiday brings the ball up the court for the Bucks following a timeout. Antetokounmpo parks himself at the right elbow while Middleton, DiVincenzo and Connaughton space the floor by camping out on the 3-point line.
Holiday begins the possession by entering the ball to Antetokounmpo at the elbow.
Holiday immediately runs towards Antetokounmpo as though they're going to run a handoff. Holiday doesn't receive the ball from Antetokounmpo but runs around him and makes a beeline towards the basket.
Beverley follows Holiday but gets caught up in Antetokounmpo's screen and falls to the ground.
With Beverley out of the play, Antetokounmpo passes the ball to Holiday just as he's entering the paint, which draws Morris away from Connaughton in the corner to prevent him from getting a layup.
Instead of trying to score on Morris at the rim, Holiday moves the ball along to Connaughton in the corner.
With Connaughton being a 39.0 percent 3-point shooter this season, George rotates off of Middleton to prevent him from getting an open look.
Connaughton makes the right play, swinging the ball to Middleton on the wing closest to him.
With Middleton being a 43.4 percent 3-point shooter this season, Leonard rotates off of Antetokounmpo to prevent him from getting an open look.
What happens next is key.
Middleton gets Leonard out of position with a fake and takes one dribble towards the basket. Knowing that Middleton is one of the best midrange shooters in the league - almost a third of his field goal attempts this season have been 2-point pull-ups and he's converted 46.3 percent of those opportunities - that forces Beverley to rotate over.
With Leonard and Beverley on Middleton, Morris on Holiday, George on Connaughton and Batum on DiVincenzo, Antetokounmpo is all alone at the top of the perimeter.
Antetokounmpo receives a pass from Middleton, takes two giant steps and throws down a huge dunk to put the Bucks ahead by three points with 10.3 seconds remaining in the game.
Antetokounmpo scored 17 points in the fourth quarter alone, doing so on 6-for-9 shooting from the field. He almost outscored the Clippers (19) by himself in the final frame.
Why it matters: It's been an odd season for the Bucks - some of which has had to do with Holiday missing extended time due to Health and Safety Protocols - but they're starting to look like the team that blew the doors off of everyone the last couple of seasons again.
Following their season-high five game losing streak in the middle of February, Sunday's win marked their fifth straight win, bringing their record to 21-13. They're now only half a game behind the Brooklyn Nets for second in the Eastern Conference and one game behind the Philadelphia 76ers for first.
More importantly, Milwaukee's win over LA is its first against a team .600 or above this season. They have beaten mostly non-contenders, going a combined 0-5 against the Nets, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns.
The Bucks have yet to play the 76ers, and this was their first meeting with the Clippers.
That is Milwaukee's first win vs. a team with over 60% win percentage this season.- Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 28, 2021
One win against a contender won't wash all of the concerns away, but the Bucks appear to be hitting their stride as the first half of the season comes to a close. That's a scary sign for the rest of the league.
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