They aren't broken into plays, or at-bats, but you can bet basketball games are a collection of moments. Dichotomies with one road leading to victory and one leading to defeat. Sometimes, though, it seems like all roads converge at the latter.
Right now it seems like some unseen force is dragging this team toward ruin. They're sinking into quicksand, and every point, steal, and rebound is a struggle to keep their heads above the surface. In the end, that sinking feeling is the only thing that matters, because it's a loss and nothing more. And you can be sure everyone here is getting sick of writing that.
We can say all the same stuff about this game. That the Milwaukee Bucks should be proud for doing what they did with their starting point guard and a stable of other players wearing suits. That the Heat are literally the manifestation of a hot streak right now, a collective with the terrifying combination of shoulder-chips and jaw-dropping talent. What such words offer in explanatory power they lack in comfort and solace. They don't pull fans out of their chairs or cheer in the locker room. They bounce off the walls and return to the person who spoke them, who finds himself hungry as ever.
The moments were there, hanging around in the air after the buzzer sounded. After an utterly predictable first quarter that finished with the Bucks down 12, Milwaukee got things going in the second quarter, thanks largely to an excellent run by Chris Douglas-Roberts. In 12 first-half minutes, CDR scored 15 points on only 7 shots.
Things really got going in the second half. Behind an increasingly stingy defense, Milwaukee knocked another five points off of Miami's quarterly scoring, thanks to four blocks and four steals. Miami's Big 3 combined for 8 total points in the third quarter, with Wade contributing exactly zero.
Suddenly the game was there for the taking. Those moments started steering Milwaukee toward a win. Chris Bosh found Dwyane Wade down the sideline for what looked like a typical transition layup, but Douglas-Roberts batted the ball out of his hands in mid-air. Wade came up seething and got slapped with a technical foul. CDR then proceeded to draw two consecutive fouls on Wade before missing a long jumper, which was cleaned up for a lay-in by the suddenly-everywhere Ersan Ilyasova. A leaner by CDR tied the game 38 seconds later. 56 seconds after that, a CDR three-pointer put Milwaukee up by 4. The Bradley Center was electric.
366 seconds later, Milwaukee had added only two points. CDR (an 83 percent free-throw shooter for his career) missed a pair at the stripe that would have tied the game at 89, necessitating a foul to send Chris Bosh to the line, where he sank both shots to take a four point lead with 23 seconds left. Milwaukee cut it back to two points in the unlikeliest of fashions: a pair of free-throws by Bogut, who shot them more with his eyes than his hands. But it looked like the typical progression of inbounds passes and fouling would decide this one.
Then another moment. LeBron James strangely hesitated to inbound the ball to Carlos Arroyo, who seemed to be caught off guard and knocked it out of bounds. Milwaukee ball. The Bucks put it in the hands of Earl Boykins, who dribbled for a week and a half, sliced towards the basket, and laid the ball in under the arms of a player almost two feet taller than him.
Chris Douglas-Roberts. Forget season, this might have been the best night of CDR's young career. He was excellent on the offensive end, but also chipped in 5 rebounds, two steals, and four blocks. At halftime, Chris told Fox Sports Wisconsin's Telly Hughes that he just wanted to make shots and give the team an infusion of offense. He was motivated by his own recent poor play, he said, and was worried that his struggles were hurting the team. Here's hoping he doesn't have to struggle for two more weeks to earn another night like this.
Earl Boykins. An uninspiring stat line (14 points, 4 assists, 5 TOs, 5 PFs), but Boykins did some things on the court tonight that would have made you laugh if there had been any air left in your lungs. His layup to send the game to overtime was an incredible thing, resembling a lumberjack running through a forest of sequoias and throwing a walnut into a bird's nest. Where the walnut came from in a sequoia forest is anybody's guess. Boykins also got called for a push-off in the game, which is laughable. Earl has already played the hero's role for the Bucks a few more times than anyone would have anticipated, and the magic just keeps coming. Too bad his team lost.
Andrew Bogut. Including overtime, Bogut played a full game's 48 minutes, and they were a sight. He missed 13 of his 17 shots, giving you an idea of just how frustrating his offense is these days. Of course, he also grabbed a career-high 27 rebounds. The effort is so obvious under both baskets, but there is just something natural about Bogut's play on the defensive end. He won't make an All-NBA team, he might not even make an All-Star team, but right now, Bogut is the best defensive player in the NBA.
31%. The Big 3 shot 18-58 in this game, with LeBron James contributing eight of those makes. Chris Bosh, who actually gets a huge chunk of credit for saving Miami in this game, scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter after getting manhandled by Milwaukee's defense (credit Luc Mbah a Moute above everyone) for most of the game. Dwyane Wade shot 4-of-19. It was, all things considered, one of the worst games Miami's stars have had all year.
23. Milwaukee turned the ball over 23 times, finishing with an estimated 22.3 Turnover rate (i.e. they turned the ball over on more than one out of every five possessions). That's their worst turnover rate of the season. Even when Miami is shooting under 40 percent from the floor, their transition game is devastating enough to hurt you on every single lost ball. With 20 assists to counter; if the Bucks were a point guard, they would've had a -22.2 pure point rating.
1-4. The previous 5-game stretch was never supposed to be a time to make up ground in the conference playoff race, and if Bucks fans are honest with themselves, salvaging one win out of the five is probably as much as we could have hoped for. At least it's over.
It's Getting Better (Man!!). From this point forward, all the way to the end of the season, the Bucks have the easiest schedule in the NBA (based on opponent's W-L numbers). It's the time we've all been looking forward to. Milwaukee faces a difficult task climbing back up the Eastern Conference standings, but they can take comfort in knowing that the competition won't be nearly as tough.
Would Jennings have made a difference? I found myself wondering if Brandon Jennings could have swayed this game in Milwaukee's favor. Brandon has, more often than many of us like to admit, shot the Bucks out of games, but his 9.42 TOR is strongly above average and he certainly puts a little more pressure on the defense than Boykins. Milwaukee's fate is often decided by Jennings' shooting touch - if he's making threes, the Bucks become enormously harder to beat. I only wonder if his unwavering confidence would have made the difference in this one, or if it would have precluded any comeback at all.
Dang. Dang, so close.