Pregame, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers was asked if he thought the Milwaukee Bucks were the best team in the Eastern Conference.
The veteran coach laughed, before asking, "is there a debate I don't know about?"
If there was a debate, it might over for the time being as the Bucks obliterated the Clippers 119-91 at Fiserv Forum, extending their winning streak to 14 games and improving their record to a league-best 20-3.
Doc Rivers when asked if the Bucks are the best team in the East right now: "Yeah (laughs) I think so. Yeah. Is there a debate that I didn't know about?"- Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) December 7, 2019
Milwaukee have won their past four games by a combined total of 137 points, as they appear to have hit full throttle on their 2019-20 regular season campaign.
Here are some takeaways from a jaw-dropping night in Milwaukee.
The third-quarter is belongs to the MVP
Carrying a 52-43 lead into the half, this contest had all the hallmarks of a playoff game through 24 minutes.
A rabid crowd, bodies flying all over the floor, controversial foul calls and emotions on full display. The game was going exactly to script, until Antetokounmpo decided to take over.
It all started with Antetokounmpo charging down the floor and finishing a shot off glass while drawing a foul on Paul George. That's all he needed.
In the 2:20 that followed, he finished a Khris Middleton lob on an inbounds pass, dunked all over Ivica Zubac and then nailed a triple.
FRAMEWORTHY. #FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/Xck5ctuciS- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) December 7, 2019
The 10-point burst nearly lifted the roof off Fiserv Forum and the Clippers never recovered.
Antetokounmpo would only be needed for 26 minutes in this one, finishing with 27 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
When Antetokounmpo checked out of the game with 8:52 remaining, Milwaukee led by 36 points.
In the 13:15 of play between the whistle blowing on the contact between Antetokounmpo and George and the thunderous ovation the reigning MVP got when exiting the game, the Bucks outscored the Clippers 48-20.
It was simply dominant.
Kawhi vs. Giannis
This is the matchup everyone tuned in to watch, though, the two superstars didn't see as much of each other as you may have suspected.
In a similar fashion to last year's Eastern Conference Finals, Leonard was utilised as the free safety of the Clippers defence, with the idea to unleashing him as the man to ambush Antetokounmpo in double-team situations.
Mo Harkless was often the man charged with guarding Antetokounmpo, while Patrick Patterson also saw a stretch of possessions on the Greek Freak in the second quarter.
The tactic makes sense for multiple reasons, but perhaps none more so than simply keeping Leonard out of foul trouble.
If these two teams are to meet again in June, you should expect the same tactic to be deployed until crunch time, where Leonard can be unleashed on Antetokounmpo.
Bucks' bench mob delivers
It's no secret that the Clippers possess the most deadly second-unit duo in the NBA.
Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell give opposing teams constant headaches as they try to work out how to apply 48 minutes of defense against a squad that gives you no break.
On this night, the role was stunningly reveresed from the outset, as the self coined 'Bench Mob' went to work.
💥 @pconnaughton sparks a 14-2 run!!#FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/Vu7eL55ZUf- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) December 7, 2019
Williams and Harrell were held to just 20 points on 8-for-20 shooting, while Pat Connaughton, Ersan Ilyasova and Donte DiVincenzo combined for 37 points on 12-for-22 from the floor.
It wasn't just offensively where the Bucks role players made an impact, with DiVincenzo recording a career-high four steals, while George Hill picked up three thefts of his own as they continually frustrated the Clippers into turnovers that continued the onslaught down the other end.
The stifling defence of the Bucks with Antetokounmpo on the bench is critically important to Milwaukee's success, as their defensive rating drops from 97.0 to 103.6 when he is on the floor.
Against a team with the ability to punish you more than any for resting your stars, Connaughton (+35), Ilyasova (+24), DiVIncenzo (+15) and Hill (+8) delivered.
What does this result mean?
Ultimately, you have to imagine this win carries some extra weight inside the Bucks' lockerroom.
The last memory they have of Kawhi Leonard is the moment their 2019 season ended in Toronto.
Yes, it's only December, yes, it's a completely different team, but watching last year's Finals MVP check out of the game with 9:25 remaning while trailing 101-67 had to feel good.
The season series between the Clippers and Bucks is now over, but will we see Kawhi and Giannis meet again in June?
I think most basketball fans would sign up for that seven game series to decide it all.
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