Three overtimes, 63 minutes, and one undeniably sweet win for Jason Kidd.
[Yes, it's OK to exhale]
In a roller-coaster game with more ups and downs than anyone wanted, the young Bucks survived three overtimes, the Nets, and even themselves on Wednesday night in Brooklyn, taking down Kidd's former team 122-118 in three overtimes.
We'll remember this game for all of the Kidd-related hype, but more importantly we'll remember it for Giannis Antetokounmpo fighting through a sprained ankle to do everything (18 pts, 12 rebs, 4 ast, 3 stl) and Jabari Parker scoring like we knew he could (23 points on 8/13 fg, 7/10 ft, 7 rebs, 2 stl). We'll remember big plays at big moments from O.J. Mayo, Ersan Ilyasova and Khris Middleton, as well as little things from John Henson and Zaza Pachulia. Kidd cycled all of them through his lineup in overtime, keeping his team fresh and avoiding the sort of predictability that has often bogged down his team's offense over the past few weeks. Contrast that with the Nets' rinse-and-repeat act with Joe Johnson, who put up good numbers overall (18 points, 8 assists) but faded late under the duress of Antetokounmpo's serpentine defending.
Then again, if the Bucks had lost we'd have probably remembered this more than any of those things:
Bucks... https://t.co/p9DLa1VFV7— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) November 20, 2014
Yep, that's Brandon Knight missing a game-winning breakaway layup that would have sunk the Nets in the first overtime. It was unbelievable, it was agonizing...and the Bucks shook it off, just like they shook off every other miscue, bad call, and bad shot in Brooklyn. A few minutes after the miss heard 'round the world, Knight sunk a huge game-tying three with 20 seconds remaining in double overtime, and by the third overtime the Bucks' younger, fresher legs proved just a bit too much for the slumping Nets.
Ilyasova and Middleton returned in the third overtime to make big plays, and Giannis' defense on both Deron Williams and Joe Johnson (on the same play) sealed it late. With the Nets down two and under ten seconds left, Giannis cheated into the lane to force Williams to pass to Johnson in the corner, and it was Giannis who still managed to close out quickly and forced another miss from Johnson along the baseline. Ilyasova scrambled for the rebound and, while falling out of bounds, saved it to an onrushing Knight, who completed his redemption by draining two free throws to seal the final margin of victory.
The win moved the Bucks to a somewhat surreal 7-5 under Kidd, while condemning Brooklyn (4-7) to a fifth straight loss. But for all the drama packed into the final 15 minutes, the truth is that this was a largely innocuous game for most of regulation. Kidd was booed, but neither team seemed terribly energized at the outset, as the Bucks went 0/7 from three as the Nets eventually edged out to a 49-41 halftime lead. Brooklyn maintained its lead through most of the third, but Mayo and Ilyasova keyed a quick Bucks' spurt at the end of the third and start of the fourth, and the two teams went back and forth for the remainder of regulation.
- Giannis was Giannis, passing up open jumpers left and right to take guys one on one and contort his body to finish around the basket. But equally impressive was his resolve on the defensive end, where he hounded Johnson, got through screens as well as he ever has, tore down defensive rebounds and generally made life difficult for anyone who came on his half of the court. He appeared clearly hobbled when he first went down in overtime after turning his ankle stepping on Knight, but he stayed in the game and made a number of critical plays to help seal it. The raw numbers were the most impressive of his young career, and watching him was just as good. GIVE THAT MAN THE GAME BALL.
- Parker started quickly with 10 points in the first quarter, scoring on an early putback, drilling a pair of midrange jumpers and adding a steal and breakaway slam. But he also kept it going in the second half, staying active off the ball and attacking off the dribble to create shots in the lane. Some went in, some didn't, but it was just as encouraging to see him finally drawing fouls and getting to the line against Kevin Garnett and the slower Net defenders he was matched up against. After hitting 7/11 free throws in his last six games combined, Jabari hit 7/10 tonight while also converting 8/13 from the field. Some more good times:
Zaza dishes to Jabari for the slick catch, adjustment and lefty slam. 17 pts. https://t.co/lfRdW5ZQN7— Frank Madden (@brewhoop) November 20, 2014
Jabari Parker steals, Jabari Parker slams. Casually. https://t.co/9p9Inyuv6R— Frank Madden (@brewhoop) November 20, 2014
- Larry Sanders started and looked relatively OK after sitting out last night's game with a thigh contusion, but he played just 14 minutes and watched the fourth quarter and overtimes from the bench. I'd guess it was due to precaution and perhaps discomfort over the injury, but plenty of credit is also due to Pachulia and Henson, who took turns anchoring the Bucks defense down the stretch and forced enough mistakes from Brook Lopez (26 points, 7 turnovers) and the Nets perimeter players that the Bucks could survive.
- NBA coaches are generally loathe to make lineup changes in crunch time; aside from the occasional offense/defense sub, sticking with the same guys down the stretch and into overtime just seems like a lazy, overly conservative part of coaching orthodoxy. All of which made it refreshing (slash a bit gutsy) for Kidd to sub as liberally as he did, particularly in the third OT when his lineup featured three guys (Henson, Ilyasova and Middleton) who had been on the bench for much of the preceding two OTs. It's not always going to work out, but benching Parker for a fresher Ilyasova paid immediate dividends when Ersan punched in four quick points to start the final period, followed by Middleton scoring four more of his own.
- Regardless of your opinion of Knight the player, you had to feel for Knight the person after his mind-boggling missed layup. He looked utterly despondent in the immediate aftermath, and you could only wonder where his head would be for the remainder of the game. It was a rough shooting performance for him in general (5/20), and he appeared to force a couple more shots soon after the miss, perhaps looking for redemption. But Kidd stuck with his point guard and gave him a major vote of confidence with the Bucks down three and 20 seconds remaining, running the same inbounds play on the left side that freed Khris Middleton for a great look at the end of the opening night loss in Charlotte. The inbound pass went straight to Ilyasova on the left block, who then pitched it to Knight coming off a screen moving to his left on the wing. It went in, Knight later iced the game with free throws, and all was once again right in Bucks Nation.
- The Bucks outscored the Nets 25-8 off turnovers and 16-9 in transition, thanks in large part to the blitzing, double-teaming coverages that Kidd was known for in Brooklyn last year. I'm a bit surprised the Nets weren't better able to cope with the Bucks' pressure given they played similarly last year, though for whatever reason their veteran experience didn't seem to help them maintain their composure in the fourth quarter and overtimes. Whatever, we'll take it, right?