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The whistle sounded, play was stopped and Giannis Antetokounmpo emerged victorious with more than half a quarter remaining.
In what we all expected to be a hotly contested Kia MVP Ladder clash on Thursday between Antetokounmpo and Stephen Curry, Milwaukee beat Golden State 118-99 in a more lopsided beating than the final score would indicate. Simply Antetokounmpo ran recklessly through the Warriors, producing 30 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists to produce his 28th career triple-double (and third this season) to tie Michael Jordan for 18th all-time.
The performance keeps Antetokounmpo atop this week’s edition of the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder, while the plummeting Curry falls out of the top five.
“We have to keep improving. We must continue to develop good habits. We have to keep going out and having fun,” Antetokounmpo told TNT in his post-match interview. “Obviously we know we are the defending champions. Everyone will come and play hard against us. But in the end, it’s about us.
Focusing solely on themselves, Milwaukee forced 11 turnovers in the first half before taking a 77-38 halftime lead thanks to Antetokounmpo’s 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting. Golden State’s 39 halftime points was the longest he had trailed at intermission since the 1962-63 season, when he moved to California.
The Bucks outshot the Warriors 14-2 in points on turnovers in the first half. In the first halves of Golden State’s last two outings, the opponents have now beaten the Warriors 34-2 in points on turnovers.
Curry, meanwhile, entered the game averaging 26.8 points but drove in under 15 points in three of his last five games.
Andrew Wiggins led Golden State in scoring (16 points) Thursday with Curry in 12 points.
“To be honest, I’m not that worried,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I thought we just got our asses kicked. We are just having a bad time in our season. It happens to every team pretty much every year with a few exceptions. We are in a bit of a rut. We played against a team that was ready and we had a great, great first half. So, we’re a little uncomfortable, and we just have to get back on track and we will.
The assist that gives Giannis the triple double!! pic.twitter.com/Kt54GNwcUP
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 14, 2022
Golden State went 12-4 on the road to start the season, but has since lost four straight on the road and four of five away. After scoring less than 100 points just twice in their 33 games through Christmas, the Warriors have failed to reach the century mark in five of their last eight games.
“We just got off to a terrible start where everything went wrong at both ends of the floor,” Curry said. “The way they protected us, we created some really good looks, but we just didn’t do it early. They took that momentum and played a little hungrier than us tonight. They started the game and practically won it in the first 18 minutes.
It’s important to note that Golden State played Thursday without defensive stalwart Draymond Green. But Jrue Holliday missed his fourth straight game for Milwaukee, ending a two-game losing streak.
And now, the Top 5 this week in the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder 2021-22:
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Last week’s ranking: No. 1
Season stats: 28.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 6.1 apg
Antetokounmpo came out in attack mode against Golden State. After only 13 seconds of play, Antetokounmpo made a mistake while driving to the basket. “You get to a position where you’ve pretty much seen it all,” Antetokounmpo said. “Now you just have to let your instincts take over, try to be in the moment as much as possible and hope you play the right game. But my mindset is always to try to be aggressive, trying to get down. Antetokounmpo certainly did that, and he ended up shooting 12 free throws on the night. Defensively, Antetokounmpo finished with three blocked shots as Milwaukee turned 15 Warriors turnovers into 19 points.
2. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Last week’s ranking: #3
Season stats: 25.5 ppg, 14.0 rpg, 7.0 apg
Nuggets coach Michael Malone was right about Jokic on Tuesday after Denver’s loss to the Clippers saying, “I think he’s one of the most disrespectful reigning MVPs I’ve ever seen. can think in terms of attention. If you open the dictionary, look up the word consistency, there you will find a picture of Nikola. Maybe so. The fact that Jokic continues to produce without Jamal Murry, Michael Porter Jr. and PJ Dozier is even more impressive as Denver has two games over .500. Jokic’s current numbers are close to his MVP season, when he averaged 26.4 points on 56.6% shooting to go with 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists. Jokic was still drop money in Thursday’s win over Portland.
3. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Last week’s ranking: No. 2
Season stats: 29.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 5.9 apg
The Nets are 2-2 since dropping the last Kia Race to the MVP Ladder, but Durant maintained his incredible production, racking up at least 27 points in four straight games before sitting down for a well-deserved rest on Thursday. for the team’s loss to Oklahoma City (Brooklyn was playing its fourth game in five nights). Durant is No. 2 in the NBA (behind Toronto’s Fred VanVleet) in minutes per game (37.2) and he’s tied with LeBron James for the longest active-game streak with 25 or more points (12). Durant scored 17 of his 27 points in Wednesday’s third-quarter win over the Bulls. Strong.
4. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Ranking last week: #4
Season stats: 27.1 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 4.3 apg
He has scored 30 or more points in eight straight games, which ranks as the most by a 76er since Allen Iverson in the 1999-2000 season. Interestingly, Embiid has scored exactly 31 points in five straight games. The team’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday ended a seven-game winning streak as Philadelphia fell for the first time since Dec. 23. Eastern Conference players. Inside the NBA, Charles Barkley believes there is “nobody in the world plays basketball better” right now that Embiid.
5. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls
Last week’s ranking: Number 6
Season stats: 26.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.7 apg
DeRozan and the Bulls caught a buzzsaw on Wednesday when the Brooklyn Nets came to town, and Chicago is now 2-2 since the last Kia Race to the MVP Ladder. DeRozan drove in 19 of 9 of 16 from the floor against the Nets, and the Bulls are just 3-4 this season when he finishes with less than 20 points. Since a nine-game winning streak, the Bulls have lost two of their last three. But Chicago faces a struggling Curry and the Golden State Warriors play the return game of a back-to-back Friday at the United Center (7:30 a.m. ET, ESPN).
The next five
6. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (Last week: #5)
seven. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies (Last week: #10)
8. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns (Last week: #8)
9. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (Last week: #7)
ten. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz (Last week: #9)
And five more (listed alphabetically): Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns; Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks; James Harden, Brooklyn Nets; Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls; Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors.
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Michael C. Wright is Senior Writer for NBA.com. You can email him here, find his archives here and follow him on Twitter.
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