MILWAUKEE -- The crowd was electric from start to finish Thursday night at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, as the Milwaukee Bucks made their return to the Mecca to take on Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics in a national televised game.
The roughly 11,000 seat arena was packed with passionate Bucks fans ready to see superstar swingman Giannis Antetokounmpo put on another stellar performance.
The 22-year-old came into the contest averaging a staggering 36.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists while shooting 65.9 percent from the field.
Antetokounmpo is absolutely worth the price of admission. His long strides in transition and ability to score without possessing a consistent jumpshot yet is truly remarkable given where the league is trending towards.
The Bucks' franchise player didn't disappoint against the Celtics and filled up the stat sheet as usual.
Antetokounmpo finished with a game-high 28 points on 10-of-21 shooting and also had 10 rebounds and seven assists. With his 28 points, Antetokounmpo has now accumulated more points (175) in the first five games of a season than any other player in Bucks history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
But as the pace of the game slowed down as it tends to do late in the 4th quarter, a common, negative trend occurred for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
The Celtics began clogging the paint with their bigs, preventing Antetokounmpo from driving to the hoop by loading to his side and almost daring the other four Bucks on the floor to beat them.
Boston's strategy worked, as they came away with a 96-89 victory. Antetokounmpo only hit two field goals in the final quarter and they were both garbage time threes when the outcome of the game was already decided.
Celtics center Al Horford, who scored 27 points, was the primary defender on Antetokounmpo and did a good job of bodying "The Greek Freak" and forcing him to settle for contested shots.
Antetokounmpo told reporters postgame he's used to teams loading to his side now and that he trusts his teammates to knock down open shots when he's double-teamed.
"It's pretty much similar," Antetokounmpo said of the defensive looks Boston showed him. "You can tell night to night the other defenders pay more attention to me. You can see from the start that everybody loads and they close gaps so I don't have a lot of room to go. I know moving forward that's going to happen. I just got to stay disciplined and trust our offense, try to move the ball and I know the ball is going to find me back."
The Bucks shot 45.5 percent from the floor overall and 44 percent from three, but it was the timely makes they couldn't cash in on and it ultimately cost them the win.
Head coach Jason Kidd said the team had some great looks all night long and that he's confident those shots will fall as the season progresses.
Second-year point guard Malcolm Brogdon and sharpshooter Khris Middleton each scored 15 points while small forward Tony Snell chipped in 11.
It's obvious, though, that the Bucks are lacking another playmaker on offense to complement Antetokounmpo. They need a guy who can break a defense down and score without using a pick, otherwise their offense is going to be ghastly every time Antetokounmpo is locked up.
Milwaukee has that player in Jabari Parker, but he's not expected to return until January or February, as he's rehabbing from a second torn ACL.
So the question has to be asked: Should the Bucks trade for disgruntled Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe?
The most recent report claims that while the Bucks and Suns have held discussions centered around a Bledsoe trade, Milwaukee is reluctant to move Brogdon, the player Phoenix wants in return for Bledsoe.
Bledsoe, 27, averaged 21.1 points and 6.3 assists last season in 66 games. He is one of the most explosive point guards in the entire NBA and would take a lot of the offensive burden off of Antetokounmpo's shoulders.
Brogdon has a bright future and he's the reigning Rookie of the Year. But Bledsoe's scoring capability and the pressure he puts on defenses when he's going downhill are skills Brogdon can't bring to the table.