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ANTETOKOUNMPO: From 15 wins as rookie, to NBA’s best record

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Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) is fouled by Philadelphia 76ers' Shake Milton (18) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Philadelphia. Milwaukee won 128-122. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Six seasons ago, a rookie named Giannis Antetokounmpo was playing 24.6 minutes a game, averaging 6.8 points.

He never scored more than 16 points for the Milwaukee Bucks, and only hit double figures 22 times during that 15-win season — the lowest win total in team history.

Antetokounmpo was barely a blip on the radar, as guard Brandon Knight led the Bucks in scoring, alongside players like Zaza Pachulia, Ramon Sessions and Nate Wolters playing big minutes.

Fast forward to Thursday night’s 128-122 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Bucks clinched the best record in the NBA as Antetokounmpo solidified his candidacy for MVP.

The 24-year-old scored 45 points on 13-of-22 shooting. He went 3 of 7 from deep and 16-for-21 from the line to go with 13 rebounds, six assists, five blocks and no turnovers.

After the game, Antetokounmpo was asked about the MVP, asked whether it bothers him he’s asked every night about the MVP and even asked about former L.A. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant talking to him about winning the MVP before last season.

Antetokounmpo simply said winning takes care of everything and that “he made me believe it even more. A guy like Kobe (Bryant) saying go get the MVP, made me change my mentality and belive it even more that I can do it.”

The Bucks are one win away from a 60-win season with three games remaining.

Oddly enough, Antetokounmpo isn’t the only one left from that 15-win 2013-14 season.

Khris Middleton has been with the Bucks the entire time — he was sort of a throw in to getting Brandon Knight for Brandon Jennings — and made his first all-star game this season. Also, Ersan Ilyasova made his way back to Milwaukee this season, after many a stop elsewhere.

The way the standings are set up, this matchup with Philly could possibly be the Eastern Conference Finals, if both teams get there.

The Sixers would likely have to beat the Toronto Raptors in the semis, while Milwaukee would get either the Indiana Pacers or Boston Celtics.

If the Bucks and Sixers do meet, it will likely be a seven-game series but one where Antetokounmpo could go to another echelon — if that’s even possible.

Along with Thursday’s monster game, two weeks ago, in a 130-125 loss to the Sixers, Antetokounmpo scored 52 (15 of 26 FG, 3-8 3s, 19-21 FTs), to go with 16 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, a block and three turnovers.

The Bucks also played the Sixers the fourth game of the season. In that 123-108 win, Antetokounmpo scored 32 (12-24 FG, 0-3 3s, 8-9 FTs), had 18 rebounds, 10 assists, three blocks, two steals and five turnovers.

If the Bucks win out, they’ll finish 62-20, which would be the third best in team history.

Milwaukee’s best season was 1970-71, when they went 66-16, led by a guy named Lew Alcindor, who won the MVP and the Finals MVP. The Bucks swept the Baltimore Bullets that season for the NBA championship.

Alcindor averaged 31.7 points, 16 rebounds, 3.3 assists that year, his second in the league, before changing his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He played for the Bucks four more seasons before being traded to L.A.

Antetokounmpo, this season, is pretty close to Abdul-Jabbar numbers, averaging 27.4 points, 12.5 rebounds — along with 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals.

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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