Not even a brilliant performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo was enough for the Milwaukee Bucks to overcome the duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins on Wednesday at the Smoothie King Center.
Davis and Cousins led the New Orleans Pelicans to a 115-108 victory over Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, snapping Milwaukee's three-game winning streak and 6-1 stretch in the process. The Pelicans used a 13-3 run in the fourth quarter to seize control after trailing by three with less than eight minutes remaining and moved to 15-14 on the season.
Cousins (26 points and 13 rebounds) and Davis (25 points and 10 rebounds) each posted double-doubles, while Antetokounmpo stuffed the stat sheet with 32 points, nine rebounds, five steals, four assists and a block.
It isn't every game three of the best players in the league are on the same floor at the same time, and the battle between Antetokounmpo and the Davis-Cousins pairing served as the primary storyline.
Antetokounmpo is nearly an impossible matchup for any defense with his height, ball-handling skills and versatility, but the Pelicans were a particularly vulnerable opponent considering they entered Wednesday's contest an abysmal 25th in the league in defensive rating, per NBA.com.
The group was made even more porous with Tony Allen—a six-time member of an All-Defensive Team—out because of a fibula fracture, and the Greek Freak wasted little time driving past New Orleans' two big men and finishing with authority:
G I A N N I S https://t.co/swL90MB68G2017-12-14 01:30:47
Head-turning Antetokounmpo dunks have become a nightly tradition when the Bucks play, and he didn't miss the chance to give the Pelicans fans a show:
Air Giannis coming at ya! #FearTheDeer https://t.co/uufNDCl8n12017-12-14 02:01:36
Nobody on the home team was equipped to slow Milwaukee's leader, and he poured in 21 points in the first half alone on his way to his impressive final totals.
While Antetokounmpo received help from Khris Middleton (15 points and 10 assists), the Pelicans had two superstars to Milwaukee's one and a better showing from important members of the supporting cast with E'Twaun Moore drilling four three-pointers on his way to 21 points and Jrue Holiday adding 16 points and eight assists.
It was more of the same for the backcourt tandem after Holiday had 37 points and Moore had 36 on Monday against the Houston Rockets. Milwaukee was so preoccupied with dealing with Davis and Cousins it left the guards open a number of times, and Holiday and Moore took full advantage.
Down low, the Bucks relied on a frontcourt of Antetokounmpo, Thon Maker, John Henson and Joel Bolomboy to deal with Davis and Cousins. There was versatility and athleticism in place with that group, but dealing with the Pelicans' pair of big men is easier said than done.
Both can score on the blocks or take their games to the perimeter, meaning they can exploit nearly any type of defender. Cousins worked in pick-and-rolls on the outside and demonstrated his playmaking abilities:
New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA
Dunks galore! #DoItBig https://t.co/OmHeQ7FRQ02017-12-14 02:56:53
He also drilled a critical three-pointer in the final 30 seconds to stretch a four-point advantage to seven.
As for Davis, his showing was even more impressive than his final totals considering he missed Monday's loss to Houston with a groin injury.
New Orleans will look to parlay Wednesday's victory into momentum as it starts a four-game road trip Friday against the Denver Nuggets. The Bucks will attempt to get back on track Friday with a divisional showdown against the Chicago Bulls.