The reigning three-time Eastern Conference champions head to Milwaukee for the first time this season and yet something feels different to past battles between the conference champs and the perennial middling Bucks. The game is on national tv and there is the usual incredible media hype for one player in the contest, except this time it’s not Lebron. It’s the irresistible 22-year-old star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Whether it be in my lounge in Melbourne, Australia or live at the Bradley Center i have barely missed a game in the Greek Freaks 4 year career. As i sat there and watched him single handily take the Celtics to the cleaners on Wednesday night i knew something had changed. Last season the NBA’s most improved player exploded for 22.9ppg, 8.8rpg, 5.4apg, was an all-star starter and burst onto the scene as a potential MVP candidate for the future. Yet after all that, the outburst in the season opener was different. I was no longer surprised or shocked to see Giannis go off for 37/13, it was expected. It wasn’t the performance of a rising star, it wasn’t the performance of a future MVP candidate. It was a performance that MVP’s deliver on opening night. Giannis is amongst the leagues elite and it is so damn enjoyable to watch.
But, having said all this, tonight brings a new challenge. Social media has been abuzz for the last 48 hours about Giannis and tonight is another opportunity to send a message. The East is up for grabs this season and what better time than tonight to land the first blow on Lebron and co.
Lebron was at his absolute best in Tuesdays season opening win against the Boston Celtics posting 29 points, 16 rebounds and 9 assists in what became a rather subdued and solemn affair, far from the heated confrontational contest that was expected. None the less the Cavs were able to focus after the horrific Gordon Hayward injury that sucked the life out of the Quicken Loans Arena.
The 41 minutes logged by James was certainly more than Tyronn Lue would have liked but rest assured Lebron will leave nothing on the court tonight in this suddenly brewing rivalry between the Cavs and Bucks.
Despite all the hype on this matchup the Bucks role players are going to be the key in this one.
Can Middleton, Brogdon, Monroe and the like provide enough support to score the likely 105+ points required to win?
Can the much publicised defensive scheme limit open corner threes and easy points at the rim?
I could go on and on but I’m getting to excited about this one. Without doubt the Bradley Center will be rocking tonight in Milwaukee and around the world fans will be tuning in to see what many feel is the first duels in what will eventually be the handing of the torch in the ‘best player in the world’ title. Because make no mistake, something has changed. Giannis the superstar is upon us and we should all just sit back and enjoy this ride.