Giannis Antetokounmpo was determined to reach 50 points as he piled on 12 in the last four minutes of the Milwaukee Bucks' 135-110 home win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.
It was the sixth 50-point performance of Antetokounmpo's career, and after coming into the season with four, he has managed two this month following his career-high 55 against the Washington Wizards on January 3.
He shot a blistering 20-of-26 from the field – including 16 of Milwaukee's first 21 points – adding 13 rebounds and four assists, and while he could have settled for a strong effort and a comfortable win, he decided to make it a memorable night down the stretch.
Sitting on 38 points with 3:51 remaining, Antetokounmpo hit four free throws and a layup to reach 44, before closing the game with back-to-back three-pointers to bring up his 50.
Giannis tied a career-high with 10 40-point games in a season.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 30, 2023
50 PTS | 13 REB | 4 AST | 77 FG% pic.twitter.com/u1u1NegknU
Speaking after the victory, the two-time MVP and 2021 NBA Finals MVP said these are opportunities you do not want to waste.
"I knew that if I was able to get the rebound, I was going to shoot," he said. "It doesn't always work out, but tonight it did.
"I didn't hesitate at all. I was able to get my legs under my shot, stayed there, and just watched the ball go in.
"It's one of those moments you can never take for granted because you never know when you're going to have those moments again."
Antetokounmpo's team-mates decided to bring the locker-room celebration out to the court, showering their franchise player with bottles of water in front of the sold-out Fiserv Forum.
Goodnight. pic.twitter.com/AfReoEc7Wm— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 30, 2023
"We might as well do it in front of everybody," Bucks guard Jrue Holiday said. "It's really just to show how much we appreciate him. For him to go out there and do that is amazing, no matter how many times you score 50 points.
"It's a great time – everybody just kind of gets on his shoulders and we're just along for the ride. At that point, we just got to support him. If he passes it to us, make the shot, but for the most part, we know who's going to carry us."
Head coach Mike Budenholzer joined Holiday in awe of his star player, highlighting all the hard work he puts in.
"Tonight, I think 50 on 26 shots is impressive," he said. "Just everything he did, his aggressiveness, a couple threes, especially late, but he's shooting it well.
"It feels like a few more catch and shoots – if we can generate a few of those for him and build the confidence in that area, those are areas where he's improving."
The Bucks improved their record to 33-17, leaving them third in the Eastern Conference and with the fourth-best record overall, while the Pelicans slipped to 26-25 after their eighth consecutive loss as they battle a number of key injuries.