It's not even December yet. But if one had to put some ridiculously early money on this season's Kia MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo is an increasingly sound bet.
Antetokounmpo's totals were impressive enough: 34 points, 18 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a block. So was the usual array of jaw-dropping highlights, including this steal-and-slam:
But the most notable aspect was how Antetokounmpo put the Bucks on his back when they needed him most. The Greek Freak repeatedly imposed his will on the Spurs down the stretch, finishing the fourth quarter with 14 points -- including 10 from the foul line alone -- four rebounds and three assists as the Bucks rallied from 10 down with 7:20 remaining.
With all three of his assists coming on 3-pointers, Antetokounmpo accounted for 23 of the Bucks' 40 points in the fourth, monster production they desperately needed to shake off Friday's disappointing home loss to the lowly Suns.
Antetokounmpo had plenty of help. Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brodgon and Eric Bledsoe combined for 64 points, and all three hit critical buckets in the final 2:20.
But there was little doubt as the final buzzer sounded: The night belonged to Giannis.
Turning it around
Speaking of monster lines, Karl-Anthony Towns punished the Bulls for 35 points, 22 rebounds and six assists as the Timberwolves continued their post-Jimmy Butler turnaround with a 111-96 victory.
In doing so, Towns joined Chris Webber and DeMarcus Cousins (twice) as the only players with at least 35 points, 20 rebounds and five assists in a game over the past three decades.
Perhaps more importantly, the Timberwolves won their fifth game in seven outings since trading Butler to the 76ers.
Granted, two of those wins came against the Nets, and now a third against the Bulls. But at 9-11, with the Butler ordeal no longer hanging over their heads like a noxious cloud, the Timberwolves are at least starting to turn their season around.
In a finish that only The Starters could love, the Warriors secured their 117-116 triumph over the Kings -- snapping a four-game losing streak in the process -- in large part thanks to a crucial defensive stand capped when Marvin Bagley III's shot lodged between the rim and backboard.
This, in Starters parlance, is better known known as a "wedgie."
There were still 2.1 seconds remaining at that point, but the game was essentially over. The ensuing jump ball took place at half court, leaving the Kings with just 0.3 seconds remaining with which to go for the game-winner after winning possession. It failed, allowing the Warriors to staunch the bleeding from their recent woes.
(Oh, yeah: In addition to Klay Thompson's go-ahead putback, Kevin Durant was an absolute beast with 44 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.)
Quote of the Night
"I was just (expletive)" - Thunder center Steven Adams on why he struggled to make shots in the first half of Oklahoma City's 105-98 loss to the Nuggets
Break out the Cavs
Don't look now, but the Cavaliers -- and rookie point guard Collin Sexton in particular -- are red hot!
OK, they've only won two games in a row following their 117-108 conquest of the water-treading Rockets, and are still mired near the bottom of the NBA standings at 4-14. But when you were saddled with the league's worst record as recently as Friday afternoon, and just doubled your win total in a span of two days, who are we to qualify?
Taking full advantage of Chris Paul's absence, and shrugging off everything reigning Kia MVP James Harden (40 points, 13 assists) threw at them, the Cavaliers were in a position for most of the game that they've rarely found themselves in this season: Comfortable control.
The Rockets cut the lead to five points or less four times in the second half, and the Cavaliers beat them back each time. Tristan Thompson did the dirty work with 16 points and 20 rebounds, and Sexton continued his recent stretch of impressive play with a career-high 29 points.
It marked Sexton's eighth straight game in double figures since interim coach Larry Drew inserted him into the starting lineup, a stretch in which he's averaging 19.6 points on 50.8 percent shooting. Not bad for a 19-year-old who earlier this month was subjected to a report citing anonymous teammates who questioned his hoops IQ.
Hit a huge shot, get a free lift to the bench.
DeAndre Jordan carries JJ Barea back to the bench after this monster 3 ball 😂 pic.twitter.com/aTXgJkb51V— Grind City Media (@grindcitymedia) November 25, 2018
Not his deal
Not to make something out of nothing, given that the following quote was clearly not meant to insult. Nor can it come as much of a surprise given that it's entirely possible the notoriously taciturn Kawhi Leonard has made it through entire games without speaking. But this still seems like a noteworthy observation from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on his departed superstar:
Gregg Popovich was asked about Patty Mills' role as a leader this season, given the offseason losses of longtime Spurs like Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. His answer: pic.twitter.com/NQRAZfeX9t— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) November 25, 2018