How it happened: Bucks free Giannis Antetokounmpo for clutch dunk late in win over Pistons

Last week on "How it happened," we took a close look at Paul George's game-winning 3-pointer against the Nets, and how he used a perfectly executed slip screen to get open. This time, we'll break down another single play -- Giannis Antetokounmpo's dunk in the closing minutes of the Bucks' win over the Pistons on Monday -- one which used a similar element.

Up by as much as 15 points late in the third quarter, the Bucks looked to be cruising to a win over the Pistons. But the team from Detroit went on a 10-0 run to close the frame, and things were close the rest of the way.

In the end, though, the Bucks escaped, 107-104 to earn their fourth win in five tries, and move to 20-9 on the season -- just one and a half games behind the Raptors for first place in the East, Milwaukee will have another chance to close the gap on Toronto on Wednesday night when they host the New Orleans Pelicans (8 p.m. ET -- Watch on FuboTV with the NBA League Pass Extension). They did so thanks to a couple of clutch buckets from Giannis down the stretch, the last of which is the one we'll examine more closely here.

We pick things up with just under two minutes to play, and the Bucks clinging to a five-point lead. Giannis Antetokounmpo brings the ball up the floor, gets to the left wing, and initiates the action.

Sterling Brown cuts through, Eric Bledsoe pops up to the top of the key, and Khris Middleton screens down for Brook Lopez. So far, nothing too interesting. But when Giannis gets the ball to Bledsoe, things start to pick up.

giannis-1.png
Giannis gets Eric Bledsoe the ball to initiate the action

As Bledsoe catches the pass from the Greek Freak, Lopez is already on the move to set a high screen. Like we saw last week with Paul George though, he never actually sets it, and instead slips through horizontally out to the other wing.

giannis-2.png
Lopez comes up to set a screen, but slips through to the other wing

Again, as the play with George showed, this creates some confusion for the defense on whether or not to switch, or who is guarding which player. The Pistons, to their credit, do a decent job of reacting to this, and as Andre Drummond drops back to contain Bledsoe, Reggie Bullock leaves to recover back to Lopez.

If this was just Lopez slipping the screen, they might be OK. But there's another layer to this play, which is going to create even more confusion, and eventually a dunk for Giannis. Because when Lopez slipped, he acts for a second like he's going to set another screen on Blake Griffin. As he does this, Giannis starts rolling down the middle of the court to the basket.

Lopez doesn't actually set a screen though, and instead pops out to the wing. With Bullock still in the middle of the court, it would make sense for him to switch on to a cutting Giannis, while Griffin watches Lopez.

giannis-3.png
Giannis starts to cut through the middle of the court

This is all happening extremely fast though, and Bullock has already made up his mind to sprint out to the wing to recover to Lopez. This results in him running straight past Giannis, and essentially setting a pick on Griffin, who is slow to react, and can only watch as Giannis takes the pass from Bledsoe and flies in for the dunk.

giannis-4.png
The Pistons, in confusion, leave Giannis open, and he gets a slam

This was a pretty neat little set from the Bucks using multiple screening actions and even some elements of a weave up at the top of the key, all of which combined to utterly confuse the Pistons' defense.

The Bucks never scored again after this dunk, but were able to hold on and get the win. Giannis finished the game with 32 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

Our Latest Stories