Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer is convinced his star player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, made a big statement on Thursday, not only to the Philadelphia 76ers during a 128-122 road win but to the entire league with his rousing play.
Antetokounmpo trotted out a 45-point masterpiece, drizzled with 13 rebounds, six assists and five blocks, with four of those swats coming against Joel Embiid, the Sixers' most dominant offensive player:
“Yeah, that felt like a statement,” said Budenholzer, according to ESPN's Tim Bontemps. “Especially with what he does defensively with the five blocks and 13 rebounds and changes the game… finishing and making free throws.
“He's an MVP in our eyes, so we'll keep him,” he added with a laugh.
This was Budenholzer's modest and more reserved way of advocating for his star's MVP chances, but Antetokounmpo made that case all by himself, especially after keeping his composure after starting point guard Eric Bledsoe was ejected from the game in the early minutes of the first quarter after a dodgeball-like encounter with Embiid.
The Greek Freak kept calm, but most importantly kept his team in the game, chipping away at deficits from the free-throw line and even showing a bit of his renewed confidence in his long-range game, burying 3-of-7 from deep.
To round it all out, Antetokounmpo committed no turnovers in the game, a rather clean performance that allowed his team to show out on the road, even with a slim margin of error.