LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Giannis Antetokounmpo, touted as Most Valuable Player material entering his fifth National Basketball Association (NBA) season, lived up to the hype on Saturday in the Milwaukee Bucks' 113-110 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
With less than one minute remaining and the Bucks trailing by one, the Greek star stepped to the free-throw line - but missed both shots.
Undaunted, he followed up those misses with a steal, a go-ahead dunk and a game-saving block in the waning seconds.
"I wanted the game badly," said Antetokounmpo, who scored a career-high 44 points.
"I missed those two big free throws but I couldn't end the game like that. We had to keep fighting and I needed to show the right example and that's what I did."
It was another outstanding early season display from Antetokounmpo, who scored 31 and 34 points in Milwaukee's first two games.
His 44 on Saturday put him atop the league with an average of 38.3 points per game.
"He's only getting better and stronger," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "He's a special player and he's going to do a lot. But we can't count on him to do that every night."
Antetokounmpo had 27 points through the first three quarters as the Bucks built an 84-80 lead going into the final period.
He scored 15 of Milwaukee's first 25 points in the fourth, giving them a 108-101 lead when he hit an 18-foot jump shot with 3:09 remaining.
The Blazers responded with a 9-1 run scoring run, taking a 110-109 lead when Damian Lillard hit two free throws with 57 seconds left.
Lillard lost the ball on Portland's next possession and a foul on Jusuf Nurkic sent Antetokounmpo to the line, setting the stage for his final act.
"We want him at the line down the stretch and we believe he's going to make those free throws," Kidd said. "I think he felt like he might have owed us one for that."