NBA Christmas: Giannis Antetokounmpo returns from COVID, leads Bucks to 19-point win over Celtics

MILWAUKEE – Late in Christmas afternoon, Giannis Antetokounmpo came down from the ground with outstretched arms, shouting for Jrue Holiday to pass him the ball. Holiday looked away from him, so Giannis started to clap, desperately trying to get his leader’s attention. Again, Holiday looked at him. At this point, some stars would mope and withdraw from the room. Not Giannis.

“Giannis is not like that at all,” Holiday said. “Even though he is clapping and wants the ball, he also wants you to make a play.”

This is exactly what the holidays did. As the veteran point guard headed for the basket, Giannis followed him with a brutal cut through the paint. This time he got what he wanted. Holiday found him with a nifty pass, and Giannis pushed his way to the rim for a clutch and one to tie the game at 111-111.

Minutes later, the Milwaukee Bucks left the field with a 117-113 victory over the Boston Celtics in a Christmas Day thriller. After trailing in double digits for most of the game, and until 19 by the end of the first half, the Bucks came back strong thanks to their double MVP. Giannis scored 29 of his 36 points in the second half and added 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

With a worldwide audience that attended one of the flagship days of the league, Giannis once again recalled his talent. And what’s more, he did so in his first comeback after a fight with COVID-19, which is once again sweeping the league.

It entered health and safety protocols on December 14 and was only cleared on Christmas Eve. Because he was suffering from symptoms and had been away for over a week, it was initially unclear if he would be able to play. But solid training convinced the team he was ready – albeit with a minute restriction. His performance showed that they had made the right decision.

“That’s him,” Wesley Matthews said. “He emptied it. You could see the fatigue but he’s just one of those guys. He’s a robot, he’s a machine. He thinks he doesn’t feel any pain, he doesn’t feel any pain. “He doesn’t feel anything. He keeps going, he keeps attacking and keeps putting pressure on everyone. He’s a player. He’s a two-time MVP for a reason, he’s a Final MVP for a reason.” He’s all he is for a reason. The best thing about him is that he’s not happy with all of it. “

Giannis proved his teammate’s point of view in the closing seconds of the game. While he’s already done so much to get the Bucks back on top, he came up with another mind-boggling game to seal the victory.

Led by three with less than 20 seconds to go, the Celtics tried to get two quickly. It looked like they would pull it off after Jayson Tatum got past Khris Middleton and had a clear path to the basket, but Giannis had other ideas. He rushed over to Tatum, who sent the ball to Robert Williams III. It was a good read, and against any other player it would have been an easy dunk. Instead, Giannis recovered on the other side of the rim and stood up for the rejection. In a split second, he had stopped two Celtics all by himself.

“I’m going to jump no matter what,” Giannis said. “If Tatum tries to dunk him I’m going to try to block him – jump straight up, try not to make a foul. But he decided to pass it to Williams under the basket, and I turned around and I jumped in. Sometimes you’re at a disadvantage, and play like that, you get dunked. But that doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day you try to win the game, try to get in. position to block the ball. It worked our way, it worked in our favor in this game, and we were happy. “

After Giannis returned and gave the perfect Christmas present, every fan of a sold-out Fiserv forum felt the same.

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Margarita B. Bittner