NEW YORK -- Three dribbles.
That’s all 6-foot-11, 222-pound Giannis Antetokounmpo needed to go foul line to foul line early in the second quarter.
What followed was a fake pass that sent defender Shane Larkin spinning in the wrong direction, then two huge strides and an emphatic, one-handed dunk.
“At this point, when you see [Giannis] every day, nothing he does surprises me,” Milwaukee Bucks teammate Greg Monroe said. “He is physically gifted, and that’s a play maybe one or two other people in the league can make. This is how good of a young player he is. Only a couple of people in the world can probably make that play.”
Later in the period, Antetokounmpo came out of nowhere to block Brook Lopez from behind.
“The Greek Freak,” Milwaukee's 21-year-old, human highlight reel, finished with 28 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks in 41 minutes, and the Bucks overcame a seven-point, fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the hapless Brooklyn Nets 109-100 on Sunday night in front of 15,241 fans at Barclays Center.
“It’s special,” teammate Jabari Parker said of Antetokounmpo’s big night. “I want to milk that cow as much as possible. That’s a real good form of milk.”
As Monroe added, “I think the game is slowing down for him now."
Antetokounmpo now has a franchise-record four triple-doubles this season. And get this: He had never recorded a triple-double in his first 212 games in the NBA; he now has four of them in his past 11.
“I think [Giannis] has been off the charts,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd, who finished his future Hall of Fame playing career with 107 triple-doubles, said before the game. “His growth, his understanding at [the primary ball handler] position, he’s run with it.
“We spent a lot of time [practicing] it and he’s asked a lot of questions about the position. He’s up for it. He wants to be a leader. He wants to be the best. What he’s done stat-wise since he’s taken over that position is off the charts.”
Kidd moved Antetokounmpo from forward to point forward 12 games ago on Feb. 20. Since then, he’s averaging 20.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.9 blocks while shooting 50.5 percent from the field in 38.4 minutes a night.
“I think he’s just growing as a leader,” Kidd said. “When you have the responsibility of making sure the other four guys on the floor get involved, you use your voice or you use the pass -- and he’s learning how to do both of those.”
Internally, despite the fact they’re likely to miss the playoffs, the Bucks have been extremely pleased with Antetokounmpo’s attitude and work ethic. He has literally been all over the court, and his defensive responsibilities are endless, given his ability to guard multiple positions. At this stage in his development, it’s nothing short of remarkable.
The next step in his evolution: becoming a winning player in crunch time. He did just that on Sunday night, scoring 10 points in the final 8:45 as Milwaukee closed the game on a 25-9 run after Brooklyn took a 91-84 lead.
Giannis’ brother, Knicks forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo, could only laugh when asked about No. 34’s performance.
“I’m used to it. That’s my brother, so I know he’s really, really, really athletic. That’s his game -- and it’s in our genes to make plays like that,” Thanasis said. “He’s just getting better every day.”
As for Giannis’ ceiling, Thanasis replied, “I don’t know. That’s the thing. It’s crazy. I’m his brother and even I don’t know.”
Giannis prefers to be more humble when talking about his play.
“I was just trying to make the right plays and find my teammates,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about [nearing a triple-double]. I was just thinking about getting the win, and I ended up doing that.”
Kidd sure enjoys watching Antetokounmpo run the fast break -- much the way the coach used to.
“I wish I was that tall,” Kidd joked. “Sometimes it looks like he doesn’t sweat.”