MILWAUKEE -- With just 90 seconds left to play on Monday, Donovan Mitchell missed a 3, and Giannis Antetokounmpo grabbed the ball for his 14th rebound on the night. Taking off the other way, he zoomed into the open space, sidestepped around Bojan Bogdanovic, and drew a foul. As he lay on the ground, gulping in deep breaths of air, and taking some time to rest and compose himself, the Fiserv Forum serenaded him with deserved "M-V-P!" chants. A few seconds later, he rose to his feet, strode to the line and sunk two free throws with confidence to give him 50 points on the night.
"To be honest with you I thought I had 50 before that," Giannis said. "So that was good because if I knew that those two free throws were the 50-point free throws I probably would have missed both of them, probably get nervous. But you know, just sat down there, took a breather, got up, the game was close and I had to knock down those free throws."
He was only joking about missing the free throws, but his performance was no laughing matter. He finished with 50 points on 17-of-31 from the field, 14 rebounds, six assists, two steals and zero turnovers to lead the Milwaukee Bucks past the Utah Jazz, 122-118. This was the second 50-point game of his career, and he became the first player since Michael Jordan in 1989 to put up at least 50 points, 10 rebounds and five assists with no turnovers.
"Man, it's a great compliment being next to a guy like Michael Jordan," Giannis said. "Obviously, one of the best players to ever play the game. But at the end of the day, what I care about is that you know, I was decisive. When you're decisive, you don't turn the ball over. I was able to get better game by game, find my angles, try to be low and not try to play as much upright as I've been playing all season and just make the right play. As I was saying, it's a great compliment to be there, but all I care about is being better and helping my team win."
As always, Giannis steered the conversation back to the team and winning, and there was no question he helped the Bucks get the victory on Monday night. His third quarter, in particular, was stellar, and helped turn the game around. Down by nine at halftime, Milwaukee was struggling on the offensive end. But coming out of the break, Giannis found Wes Matthews for a 3 -- one of the five he would hit -- then a short time later got to the line for two free throws to cut the deficit to three.
The Jazz hung onto their lead for a bit, but it was clear the Bucks were back on track. Even Giannis was knocking down 3s in the third, as the Bucks went 7-of-14 from deep in the frame. He finished the third with 18 points, five rebounds and five assists in one of the best quarters of basketball he's ever played, and the Bucks outscored the Jazz 42-26 to take a seven-point lead of their own into the fourth.
"The third quarter stood out, where we played well on both ends," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "We had enough stops. More importantly, against a good defensive team, we were able to make some shots. I was really pleased with the third quarter. Giannis, obviously an incredible individual performance."
At this point in his career, it's easy to get numb to what Giannis does on a regular basis, but this was a night to remember. Perfect nights don't exist in the NBA, but this was about as close as someone can get. Whether it was scoring, playmaking, defense -- even shooting, as he went 3-of-8 from 3 and 13-of-19 from the line -- Giannis was in complete control.
"Milwaukee is a terrific team," Jazz coach Quinn Snyder said. "And Giannis showed us why he's the MVP."