MILWAUKEE– Giannis Antetokounmpo celebrated his most famous 50-point feat by ordering 50 chicken nuggets at a Chick-fil-A drive-through the next day.
He already has an idea of how to remind himself that he reached this plateau for the third time in the past month.
Antetokounmpo scored 20 of his 54 points in the fourth and second quarters Milwaukee Bucks overcame a 21-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 106-105 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.
“I’ll probably go see Culver tomorrow,” said Antetokounmpo, who also had 18 rebounds. “I’ll get 50 cheeseburgers and try to eat as many as possible. I let my son eat the rest or I give it to my dog.”
The Greek star has scored at least 50 points in three of his last 11 games. He had a career-high 55 in a 123-113 win over Washington on Jan. 3 and hit 50 in just 30 minutes in a 135-110 win over New Orleans on Sunday.
Antetokounmpo has now reached the half-century mark in six regular-season games of his career. That doesn’t include his 50-point breakout against them Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the 2021 NBA Finals that gave the Bucks their first title since 1971 and led to his trip to Chick-fil-A.
He is the only player in Bucks history, along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to have at least three 50-point games in a season.
“It’s a huge compliment to be up there with Kareem,” said Antetokounmpo. “Man, I never thought I’d score 50 points in the NBA when I got drafted. It’s an insane, crazy journey.”
In his last six games, Antetokounmpo has averaged 40.2 points and 14.5 rebounds. His two free throws with 1:47 remaining gave Milwaukee a 106-105 lead, their first lead since the second quarter when the Bucks scored the last seven points of the game.
Antetokounmpo missed an opportunity to put Milwaukee ahead when he missed two free throws in a 105-104 game with 2:13 left. But the next time the Bucks had possession, he drove back to the basket and drew Ivica Zubac‘s sixth foul and this time hit his free throws.
“He’s relentless,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer. “He will position himself to help us win. Whatever it takes for us to win, he will do it. He is fearless and relentless.
The Clippers failed to capitalize on a few turnovers in Milwaukee in the closing seconds. Kawhi Leonard missed an 18-footer in the last second while being guarded Wesley Matthews with the help of Pat Connaughton.
“I’ve been doing this since my mom told me to protect the best player when I was 4 years old,” Matthews said. “I’m just like that. Nothing but respect for these guys. I have a feeling these guys have the same thing [respect] in my direction. The best way to show them respect is to stop them. The best way to show me respect is to run after me.”
The Clippers had many chances to retire.
PaulGeorge stole the ball Jrue holiday and the Clippers called a timeout with 27.1 seconds left in a one-point game, but Leonard missed a jumper. Antetokounmpo got the rebound but threw the ball wide, giving Los Angeles possession with 15.1 seconds remaining.
The Clippers brought the ball back to Leonard, who missed again.
“We were going to run it to Connaughton but they switched the matchup,” said Clippers coach Tyronn Lue. “They brought Matthews into the game. He did a good job climbing Kawhi which made him uncomfortable and made him back up a bit so he couldn’t go straight downhill.”
Norman Powell scored 26 points to lead the Clippers. Leonard had 17 points, 11 rebounds and five assists but shot 7 of 26. Marcus Morris and George had 16 points each. Zubac had 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Chris Middleton had 16 points and Holiday added 12 for the Bucks. Holiday missed his first eight shots and didn’t get his first basket until late in the third quarter.