Domas victorious in big-man showdown vs. Giannis on historic night

NBC Sports Bay Area

SACRAMENTO – Kings center Domantas Sabonis and Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo staged another epic clash in what has become a traditional battle of NBA big men.

The two bigs battled again Tuesday at Golden 1 Center, and while Antetokounmpo had a slightly better stat line, Sabonis added another chapter to his Sacramento legacy while, more importantly, helping pave the way for a lopsided 129-94 win that ended the Bucks’ 15-game winning streak against the Kings.

Sabonis broke a 50-year-old franchise record with his 47th consecutive double-double, eclipsing the old mark of 46 held by Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas set during the 1967-68 NBA season. Sabonis nearly notched a triple-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists while finishing plus-20.

Antetokounmpo put up 30 points and 13 rebounds. But he was minus-18, as Sabonis and Co. put a blanket over the rest of the Bucks’ offense.

“It’s tough,” said Sabonis, who spent a good chunk of the game trying to defend Antetokounmpo. “We had a plan today and I feel like we executed it very well, although he still had his numbers. But it was tough for him.”

That it was.

Both players repeatedly went at in the key, with neither really gaining much of an edge. Each player made 10 shots, although Antetokounmpo took three more than Sabonis.

It’s a pattern that the two have established against one another dating back to 2017.

Sabonis has averaged 15.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists and has 13 double-doubles and two triple-doubles in the 21 games between the two. Antetokounmpo has put up 26.8 points, 11.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists with 18 double-doubles and three triple-doubles.

The two each had triple-doubles when the Kings lost to the Bucks in overtime on Jan. 14. They once again were the focal point for both squads when they squared off at Golden 1 Center on Tuesday.

“As a competitor, you always want to go against the best,” Sabonis said. “In this league lately, every team has at least someone at every position that’s a top three, a top five. That kind of brings more of the competitive spirit in.”

Defending Antetokounmpo obviously is easier said than done.

The key, Sabonis said, is to make it as difficult as possible on the 2021 NBA scoring champ.

“We know he’s going to get his; he’s one of the best,” Sabonis said. “The harder we can make it … if he gets 30 and misses four extra shots than usual, that means we have four extra chances.”

The rivalry between the two dates back to 2017 when Sabonis played for the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference.

Now that he’s out West, Sabonis doesn’t get to square off against Antetokounmpo as much, but the juices are always flowing no matter what.

“Once he gets downhill, it’s almost impossible to stop him,” Sabonis said. “You just have to make it tougher on him [and see] if he can miss a couple or throw out a couple to shooters. We just got to get the ball out of his hands.”

Antetokounmpo has had the upper hand in the matchup when it comes to wins and losses. He’s 15-6 in the showdown with Sabonis, although it’s a nebulous individual stat in a team sport.

For Sabonis, however, getting the victory Tuesday meant much more than just a W against Antetokounmpo. The Kings were coming off a pair of frustrating losses and needed to win to keep pace in the West.

“Today we were able to finish the game,” Sabonis said. “That’s big for us. We can’t keep dropping games left and right. We have to keep winning. There’s no excuses.”

Sabonis’ streak of consecutive double-doubles hasn’t received a lot of national media attention, but that doesn’t deter from the impact that it has made on the Kings.

“Night in and night out, he’s come up big for us,” Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “We talked before about how immune I think people are to it. No one outside of us basically talks about it. That’s a hard thing to do. There’s a reason not many people have done it.

“He comes ready to play every night. He’s on track to play all 82 [games]. He’s not just playing every game, he’s contributing and he’s making an impact every single night.”

On this night, Sabonis did all of that and was rewarded with a rare win in his matchup with Antetokounmpo.

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