Giannis Antetokounmpo Proved Something To Joel Embiid

Photo: Matt Slocum (Getty)

Everyone’s just waiting for the NBA playoffs to hurry up and start already, but last night’s game between the Sixers and Bucks promised to be the last regular-season contest worth checking in on. It did not disappoint.

It is of course always a good idea to watch any game that features both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid, as the pair tend to turn the court into a CGI-free remake of Rampage whenever they get together, but this game was set up to be extra spicy. Not only were the Bucks playing to lock up the best record in the league and home-court advantage through the playoffs, but Antetokounmpo had put some pressure on himself by calling out Embiid the day before the game. When asked to react to Embiid describing himself as the most unstoppable player in the league, Antetokounmpo had this to say:

The subtext here is pretty easy to spot: Sorry, dude, but I’m the most unstoppable player in the league. Antetokounmpo had a chance to prove it last night, and… well, Embiid finished the game with a 34-13-13 triple-double on 31 shots, so there’s no arguing that he was stopped. But Antetokounmpo hit the Sixers with 45 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists on 22 shots, and the Bucks won 128-122. So he was, to use a technical term, extra unstoppable.

But if you really want to drill down on the Embiid-Giannis matchup and attempt to declare a winner, the Greek Freak has this moment to bolster his case:

No need to take this as any evidence that Antetokounmpo is definitively better than Embiid, just consider for a moment the absurd combination of athleticism and bravery it takes to do that to Joel Embiid. Embiid is a true generational talent and as such should never really be at any risk of meeting someone who can rival his physical abilities. And yet, in this universe, he somehow ended up as Antetokounmpo’s contemporary. Their simultaneous existence as NBA superstars feels like a gift of cosmic proportions to basketball fans.

So too is Antetokounmpo’s willingness to go right after his biggest rival in the conference. It was clear that Antetokounmpo was trying to prove something last night—he spent a good deal of the game driving right into Embiid’s body and hunting for shots of Embiid’s to block—and he mostly succeeded, finishing the the night with both the win and the game’s signature highlight. Nobody’s stopping Joel Embiid in the aggregate, but Antetokounmpo can rise to the challenge when the moment calls.

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