Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the most physically ferocious players in the league, and tonight James Harden learned not to get in the way of one of his passes. The Bucks forward attempted to rip a pass to a teammate off the dribble Thursday night, but rather than hitting its intended target, the pass nailed James Harden right in the head and knocked him to the ground.
He seemed dazed after the blow, which is unsurprising considering Giannis’s brute strength (and the fact that he practically slingshotted the ball right at the reigning MVP’s cranium). Though Harden was clearly shaken up, he shook it off and continued to play.
Giannis and Harden are Head to Head in the MVP Race
Was this an MVP-race power play? Probably not; the blow seemed entirely accidental (though Giannis has made postgame threats about meting out physical harm upon his enemies). It’s worth noting, though, that these two are obvious favorites to win Most Valuable Player this season–Giannis is one of the most dominant players the league has ever seen, and is currently averaging nearly 27 points and 13 rebounds per game.
Giannis thrives in the paint, while Harden garners most of his points from three-point range, but they have at least two things in common: their impossible-to-guard offense, and their efficiency at the free throw line. Harden leads the league in free throw attempts (and catches plenty of flak for it) while Giannis ranks third, getting most of his freebies after driving or making post moves under the basket.
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell weighed in recently on the dominance of both players, though he’s particularly familiar with Harden because of their meeting in the second round of the playoffs last season.
“They’re both unique,” Mitchell said. “With James, he has the ability to go for 40 and the same thing with Giannis. The only difference is Giannis is pretty much in the paint, shooting what, like 60 percent from the field, and James is a lot from the three.
“They’re both lethal in what they do. It’s very impressive and it’s tough to defend. … At the end of the day, they’re all-stars and they’re in the MVP race for that reason.”
James Harden put up an impressive 42 points in the narrow loss against the Bucks Thursday night, and Giannis contributed 27 points and 21 rebounds to the Bucks’s 28th win. This keeps them hovering at second-place in the league, record-wise, right behind the Toronto Raptors. The two teams will have their last regular-season meeting on March 26th in Milwaukee.