The Bucks looked destined for another crushing loss in Chicago, but a furious comeback led by Ersan Ilyasova and the rest of Milwaukee's bench erased a 27-point deficit in the second half and carried Milwaukee to a truly incredible victory.
The Milwaukee Bucks staged a comeback for the ages against a team they hadn't beaten since 2010, erasing a 27-point deficit in the 2nd-half to beat the Bulls by one and earn a split in their opening home-and-home series. Here's what some of us had to say about it:
Holy friggin' crap.— Frank Madden (@brewhoop) November 27, 2012
THRILLYASOVA BACK— Dan Sinclair (@dan_sinclair) November 27, 2012
Winners and still Central Division leaders: The Milwaukee Bucks!!!— K L Chouinard (@AnaheimAmigos) November 27, 2012
Hahahahahhahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahhahahahahaha!! Go Bucks!!— Drew Gooden (@DrewGooden) November 27, 2012
Simply put, it was incredible.
Milwaukee looked dead-to-rights midway through the 3rd quarter. The starters were largely ineffective, as an obviously-hobbled Brandon Jennings moved aimlessly around the court and Monta Ellis once again proved wholly incapable of guarding Rip Hamilton. The Bucks had clear points of emphasis tonight: after getting torched on the offensive glass and outscored by 18 at the line, they knew where they had to improve. It just wasn't happening early. Chicago continued to make most of their open shots and plenty of contested ones, while the Bucks' offense had a hard time doing much of anything. They couldn't get out on the break because they couldn't rebound, and what few looks they got from beyond the 3-point line didn't find the mark. As the lead ballooned in the 3rd, things began to look more and more desperate as guys threw up desperation shots and showed visible frustration. Scott Skiles responded by emptying the bench and putting the game in their hands.
That's when the magic started happening.
It began with a subtle run of made shots in the 3rd. Every player scored at least two points over the final two and a half minutes, and a buzzer-beating jumper by Ekpe Udoh cut the lead to 17 going into the 4th. After two quick layups, Tom Thibodeau sensed something was happening and called a timeout. Carlos Boozer coughed up the ball on Chicago's ensuing possession and Beno Udrih drilled a three on the other end. Another timeout for Thibs. Less than three minutes later, Ersan Ilyasova hits his first three-pointer since Nov. 10. Three-point game. 37 seconds later, Mike Dunleavy hits a three (off an Ekpe Udoh offensive rebound, no less!). Tie game.
Isn't it funny how a team can go on a massive run to close the gap on an opponent, but then as soon as the score knots up it becomes a back-and-forth contest? This one followed suit. Both teams traded baskets for the next few minutes before a slick pass from Dunleavy to Ersan set up a layup through contact and a trip to the line with a chance to take the lead. Ersan sank the free throw, but Rip Hamilton sank a short jumper on the Bulls' next trip to retake the lead. Astonishingly, Doron Lamb and Ekpe Udoh were there to save the day. Lamb hit Udoh with a pass in the paint and Udoh dropped in a layup that danced on the rim before falling through. If that wasn't enough, he recorded two blocks on the Bulls' next possession and grabbed an offensive board after an Udrih 3-pointer fell short. Udrih got the ball and the Bulls were forced to foul, sending him to the line with a chance to put Milwaukee up three.
The rebound danced on the fingertips of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. In the middle? Ersan Ilyasova, who somehow came away with the board before having it raked out of his hands and out of bounds. Bucks' ball, 10 seconds left. One inbounds pass standing between the Bucks and near-certain victory. But Chicago makes a living off disrupting seemingly routine plays, and intense pressure forced a Milwaukee turnover and gave the Bulls one last chance for a game-winning shot. But when Rip Hamilton's fadeaway 10-footer bounced off the rim and sailed out of bounds, the comeback was finally complete. And the bench finally got some rest.
Chicago still finished with a frighteningly high 37.8 ORR, but the Bucks almost matched them by grabbing a third of their own misses. They also cut down on the fouling, particularly during the extend second-half run, actually matching the Bulls' 19 attempts (though making only 12 themselves).
By all accounts, it was a miracle, and one most beautiful.
Ersan Ilyasova. Is he back? Maybe we've learned our lesson about judging guys based on parts of a whole, but Ersan's 4th quarter was simply fantastic. He showed confidence in his jumper, got inside for shots at the rim and grabbed some MASSIVE contested rebounds. Jim Paschke joked after the game that Ersan had "earned his spot on the bench." If one night of returns is enough to pass judgment, Scott Skiles' grand experiment was a success--John Henson was the only bright spot among the Bucks' starters, while Ilyasova responded in his first game as a reserve. Now we can only hope the old Ersan is back for good.
Doron Lamb. Still no celebratory doves, but Lamb probably earned some sort of bird-themed acclamation with his solid play as part of Milwaukee's comeback. Lamb sank all three of his shots off some crafty mid-range stuff and dished two assists. But his best play of the game was likely locking up Rip Hamilton on Chicago's final possession and forcing a tough attempt.
Beno Udrih, Mike Dunleavy, Ekpe Udoh. The whole unit was sensational, putting together the remarkable run without coming off the floor even once. Udrih found his pull-up, Dunleavy made timely shots and handled the ball well, and Udoh fought off the Bulls' frontline to the tune of 5 blocked shots.
56-10. The Bucks bench outscored the Bulls' bench by FORTY-SIX POINTS.
42-14. The Bucks finished the game on a FORTY-TWO TO FOURTEEN POINT RUN.
30-12. The Bucks outscored the Bulls by EIGHTEEN POINTS in the 4th quarter.
Literally everything from the 3:26 mark of the 3rd quarter on.
Literally everything up until the 3:26 mark of the 3rd quarter.