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NBA highlights on Dec. 19: Antetokounmpo teaches Williamson a lesson

Giannis Antetokounmpo (#34) of the Milwaukee Bucks dunks in the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie Kings Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Giannis Antetokounmpo (#34) of the Milwaukee Bucks dunks in the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie Kings Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Giannis Antetokounmpo (#34) of the Milwaukee Bucks dunks in the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie Kings Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 19, 2022. /CFP

The Milwaukee Bucks beat the New Orleans Pelicans 128-119 at Smoothie Kings Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Monday, extending the opponents’ losing streak to four games.

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks and Zion Williamson of the Pelicans are two of the most unique players in today’s NBA. Antetokounmpo’s size and dribbling ability makes him unstoppable in transition offense. Williamson’s power, athleticism and soft touch turn him into an efficient finisher in the paint.

However, Antetokounmpo apparently knows much better than Williamson to implement his talents on the court. The “Greek Freak” only dribbled to attack in fast break. During half-court offense, he did a lot of off-ball cut-ins to make sure that he was able to charge the rim immediately when he received the ball.

Giannis Antetokoumpo (#34) of the Milwaukee Bucks deflects a shot by Zion Williamson of the New orleans Pelicans in the game at the Smoothie Kings Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Giannis Antetokoumpo (#34) of the Milwaukee Bucks deflects a shot by Zion Williamson of the New orleans Pelicans in the game at the Smoothie Kings Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Giannis Antetokoumpo (#34) of the Milwaukee Bucks deflects a shot by Zion Williamson of the New orleans Pelicans in the game at the Smoothie Kings Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Having shot 11-for-12 in the paint, Antetokounmpo dropped game-high 42 points and 10 rebounds for the Bucks on Monday night. He became such a big distraction to the Pelicans’ defense, that the rest of the Bucks kept receiving the ball when they were wide open. Brook Lopez, Marjon Beauchamp and Pat Connaughton combined to go 8-for-18 from downtown. Lopez also made all of his eight attempts within the 3-point line to add 30 points for the Bucks.

By contrast, Williamson was a disappointment in Monday’s game, at least in the first three quarters. The Bucks made a bold move to have Jrue Holiday guard Williamson, who is eight centi-meters taller and 36 kilograms heavier than Holiday. Of course, coach Mike Budenholzer didn’t leave the uphill battle to Holiday alone. Whenever Williamson intended to bully toward the hoop, at least another Buck would come to trap him, either forcing Williamson to pass the ball away or turn the ball over.

Brook Lopez (#11) of the Milwaukee Bucks blocks a shot by Zion Williamson of the New orleans Pelicans in the game at Smoothie Kings Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Brook Lopez (#11) of the Milwaukee Bucks blocks a shot by Zion Williamson of the New orleans Pelicans in the game at Smoothie Kings Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Brook Lopez (#11) of the Milwaukee Bucks blocks a shot by Zion Williamson of the New orleans Pelicans in the game at Smoothie Kings Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 19, 2022. /CFP

As a result, Williamson shot only 3-for-6 from the field to get nine points in the first three quarters and committed five turnovers. The Bucks’ defensive tactics for him were not perfect. As long as he didn’t always have to post up next to the restricted area, his moves wouldn’t be so predictable. In fact, when Williamson began to do more cut-ins like Antetokounmpo did during half-court offense in the fourth quarter, he caused much more trouble for the Bucks. Not only did Williamson score nine points during the final period, the Pelicans dominated the rebounds, especially on the offensive glass.

The Pelicans might have had a better chance to win at home if Williamson had begun to play in the right way in the first three quarters. His teammates Jonas Valanciunas and CJ McCollum were both on fire in Monday’s game, combining to make 13 triples to get 68 points, 26 rebounds and 14 assists. Though the team lost by nine pints in the end, they were very close in coming back in the fourth quarter.

Zion Williamson (C) of the New Orleans Pelicans is trapped by defenders of the Milwaukee Bucks in the game at Smoothie Kings Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Zion Williamson (C) of the New Orleans Pelicans is trapped by defenders of the Milwaukee Bucks in the game at Smoothie Kings Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Zion Williamson (C) of the New Orleans Pelicans is trapped by defenders of the Milwaukee Bucks in the game at Smoothie Kings Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Williamson has first-class dribbling ability among big men, which is why the team often allows him to carry the ball to the front court. However, his protection of the ball and reading of the floor are far from what a real orchestrator is capable of doing. It’s very thoughtful that Williamson wants to create opportunities for his teammates first, but completing that task requires him to become a true individual attack threat first.

Other games on Monday (away teams come first):

Dejounte Murray of the Atlanta Hawks drives toward the rim in the game against the Orlando Magic at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Dejounte Murray of the Atlanta Hawks drives toward the rim in the game against the Orlando Magic at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Dejounte Murray of the Atlanta Hawks drives toward the rim in the game against the Orlando Magic at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Orlando Magic 125-126 Atlanta Hawks

Trae Young was in his best form recently at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday, as he dropped 37 points and 13 assists for the Hawks. Thanks to his incredible performance, the Hawks established double-digit leads twice in the first and third quarters. Nonetheless, they suddenly fell into a struggling fourth period, watching the Magic gain the lead 125-124 when there were three seconds left in the quarter.

Dejounte Murray, whose cold touch cost him 11 field goals (FGs) in this game, managed to draw a foul when he was shooting a jumper. He didn’t miss either of the free throws, sealing the win for the Hawks and ending the Magic’s six-game winning streak.

Luka Doncic (L) of the Dallas Mavericks is ejected from the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Luka Doncic (L) of the Dallas Mavericks is ejected from the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Luka Doncic (L) of the Dallas Mavericks is ejected from the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Dallas Mavericks 106-116 Minnesota Timberwolves

The Mavericks saw their ace Luka Doncic and head coach Jason Kidd both ejected with two technical fouls in the third quarter at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Monday, but that was not why they lost, because they already trailed by 16 points (85-69) when the two clashed with the referee.

Anthony Edwards missed a triple-double by one assist after scoring 27 points and 13 rebounds. His teammate Naz Reed also contributed a double-double of 27 points and 13 rebounds. Having secured their third consecutive win, the Timberwolves rose to eighth in the Western Conference.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (#2) of the Oklahoma City Thunder shoots in the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (#2) of the Oklahoma City Thunder shoots in the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (#2) of the Oklahoma City Thunder shoots in the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, December 19, 2022. /CFP

Portland Trail Blazers 121-123 Oklahoma City Thunder

Damian Lillard surpassed Clyde Drexler (18,040 points) as the Trail Blazers’ all-time scoring leader after scoring 28 points and six assists at Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Monday night. Considering that he is 32 years old and in possession of an explosive scoring ability, Lillard should be very hopeful of reaching 25,000 or even 30,000 points.

Lillard had the chance to celebrate his career night with a game-tying reverse layup that placed the Trail Blazers tied  at 121, when there were 3.2 seconds left. Nonetheless, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, in the following possession, beat the buzzer for the Thunder by draining a baseline jumper in front of Justise Winslow.

Utah Jazz 99-122 Cleveland Cavaliers

Toronto Raptors 101-104 Philadelphia 76ers

San Antonio Spurs 124-105 Houston Rockets

Los Angeles Lakers 104-130 Phoenix Suns

Charlotte Hornets 125-110 Sacramento Kings


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