MILWAUKEE — Triple-doubles are nothing new for Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the one he posted Thursday night against the Portland Trail Blazers stood out.
Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 19 rebounds in the Bucks’ 137-129 win, but his career-best 15 assists most caught the attention of coach Mike Budenholzer.
“I thought tonight was one of his best nights of just seeing the floor and really being a playmaker with 15 assists [and] in a lot of different ways he got the assists,” Budenholzer said.
“That’s what I tried to do, try to find my teammate,” Antetokounmpo said. “My teammates were in the right spot. They were able to knock down shots.”
Budenholzer has diversified the offense this season by using Antetokounmpo as a passer in different situations out of the point guard position, in the post and off pick-and-rolls. All of that was on display against the Bucks, which helped teammate Eric Bledsoe go off for a team-high 30 points.
DiVincenzo also added 16 points to extend his career-long streak of double-digit scoring to four games, while Wesley Matthews added 12 points.
“I think guys are starting to move better without the ball and cut and screen,” Budenholzer said. “I think there’s been a little bit of improvement there, and I think that’s just going to make us hopefully harder to guard.”
Antetokounmpo’s 24-point, 19-rebound, 15-assist stat line has been matched only by Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird in league history. His teammates also feel he’s capable of joining Robertson in another category if he wants.
“I think he could average a triple-double, honestly, especially if we make shots,” said Bledsoe, adding that Bucks players have got to be ready because Antetokounmpo’s passes “could come at you without even knowing sometimes.”
Facing Carmelo Anthony in just his second game with the Trail Blazers brought back memories for Antetokounmpo, whose first career start in December 2013 came against Anthony and the New York Knicks.
“I remember that game like it was yesterday,” Antetokounmpo said. “It was the first game that my family came and watched, so I was really excited. I was trash talking, I was getting into Melo.”
Anthony ended Thursday’s game with 18 points and seven rebounds, shooting 6-for-15 from the field.
“This is my seventh year now and the 17th year of Melo. … Time flies,” Antetokounmpo said. “I’m excited I could go against him. He’s definitely an NBA player, definitely deserves to be on the team.”
The Bucks (12-3) are on a six-game winning streak, but even with all the current success, Antetokounmpo said he sometimes is reminded of the earlier years when life was much different for him in Milwaukee. Either way, he can’t complain.
Before speaking to the media scrum after his big night, Antetokounmpo jokingly told reporters, “I remember the good ol’ days my rookie year when I could just walk out of here.”
His latest career game was just another night at the office.