In an epic match among some of the league’s most talented stars, Giannis Antetokounmpo dropped 49 points to beat Kevin Durant’s 42 points and lift the Milwaukee Bucks to a 117-114 victory over visiting Brooklyn Nets on Sunday. The game that reached the final seconds was what many considered a potential preview of the Eastern Conference finals.
“You want to be part of games like this,” Antetokunmpo said afterward. “When you grow up, you want to play against the best, and going down to the wire, walking back and forth, that’s what you’ve always dreamed of.”
Durant shot 16-of-33 from the field and had 10 rebounds, two assists and a steal to go along with his dominant score. Antetokounmpo fired 21
The Nets and Bucks alternated their lead until the fourth quarter. Bucks had a three-point lead, with only 3.6 seconds left when Durant missed a 28-foot shot that would have leveled the game.
“You want to be judged by the best defender, the best team defense, the best coach,” Durant said. “It’s the only way to improve as a player. That’s why I get excited and enjoy these opportunities, and we manage as a team.”
Antetokumpompo, the current Defender of the Year, has become one of the NBA’s most feared defenders. Not so long ago, however, he was in Greece watching Durand from afar. Antetokumpo said he grew up studying Durant’s game and recalls watching him at the Western Conference finals in 2011, when Antetokumpo was a teenager and Durant was in the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“What he’s doing is amazing,” Antetokumpompo said Sunday night. “Being 6-11, being able to shoot over everyone. The way he handles the ball and gets to his place is amazing – the best I’ve seen in my life. I look at him, I won’t lie . “
Antetokunmpo added that he worked to emulate parts of Durant’s game, but that he preferred to be a facilitator and playmaker. Despite the two dominant All Stars scoring nights, Antetokounmpo insisted he was not trying to shoot Durant.
“No one in this world can go back and forth with KD,” Antetokumpo said. “He’s one of the best scorers to ever play this game. I was just trying to get the job done, get to my seats, and perform and help my team win.”
With the loss, Brooklyn is now tied with Philadelphia at the top of the Eastern Conference, awaiting the result of the 76ers’ match on Sunday night in San Antonio against the Spurs. More importantly, however, the Sixers have a game in the loss column – and keep the tiebreak in the season series.
With the victory, Milwaukee climbed within 2.5 games from Brooklyn for second in the East before his rematch on Tuesday at the Fiserv Forum.
“It’s one of the games you like to play,” Durant said. “And we hope he’s better for us in the next game.”