Certain basketball players do so many amazing things so often that it's hard to identify their highlights. When someone defies convention with regularity, he creates his own set of expectations for fans — LeBron James has been in this camp for the better part of a decade. In the past year-plus, New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis and budding Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo have entered that group, regularly out-jumping or out-striding opponents in near-nightly displays of paradigm-shifting basketball.
Davis and Antetokounmpo met up on Monday night as the Pelicans and Bucks faced off, and they did not disappoint with the highlights or all-encompassing production. In fact, both were good enough that we can enjoy them as they were meant to be seen, via more than just one astounding play.
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The more accomplished Davis was particularly impressive in the Pelicans' 114-103 victory, tying a career high with 43 points on absurdly efficient shooting stats (17-of-23 FG, 9-of-11 FT). He also contributed in other areas, putting up 10 rebounds, six assists, two blocks, and a steal while drawing enough attention to help his teammates shoot 9-of-15 from beyond the arc. It was a complete performance for a player who seems certain to find a place on the All-NBA First Team at the end of this season. Take a look:
Antetokounmpo was his own brand of impressive in the loss. He scored 29 points, also a career-high, on 11-of-16 shooting from the field and 7-of-7 from the line, but as usual he fascinated with the breadth of his talents. Giannis added five rebounds, four assists, three steals, and three blocks in his do-everything role. As the 20-year-old continues to grow, he seems headed for increasingly greater things. Players this young are not supposed to attack like this:
While it's difficult to watch both these players without imagining their futures, the fact is that both Davis and Antetokounmpo have their teams on the cusp of impressive accomplishments. The New Orleans victory brings them within a half-game of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the final playoff spot in the West, which is impressive enough to garner Davis serious MVP consideration even if the Pelicans don't end up playing an 83rd game. Meanwhile, the Bucks appear locked into a postseason berth despite some poor injury luck, and Antetokounmpo has been at the forefront of their improvement throughout the season.
In other words, forecasting the future isn't really a matter of predicting if both players can tap into as-yet-untapped potential, because they've both done enough already to convince that they can compete. The eventual level of these players may be in doubt, but their ability is not. We should be watching them for a good long while, so adjust your expectations accordingly.
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