Playoff media is intense.
At least 10-20 guys have come up from Chicago. National writers are in from sites like Grantland, ESPN and Yahoo. Everyone wants to come tell a story.
So my usual seat is occupied. I’m upstairs and it’s a bit of a hike. But I don’t mind the view. I’m at a Milwaukee Bucks playoff game and I don’t get to say that too often. And I’ve never gotten the pleasure to cover a Bucks-Bulls playoff game. The Reds are filing in and I’m setting up my perch at the top of the 200 level.
Here we go.
6:20: Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones is playing over the PA as fans slowly begin to file in – but just the first part of it over and over. The first part of Satisfaction is very good. One of the best guitar riffs to open a song that I can remember. I once read that Keith Richards came up with that in his sleep, which is a super bad ass way to come up with a guitar riff. In my sleep the other night I got up and took the blanket that was on top of me and hid it behind a dresser in my closet. I fear I’m going to wake up on the street one day after having committed a crime I will never be able to take back.
I am the wolfman.
6:23: Satisfaction turned into a rap song which turned into jock jams.
6:26: There are a lot of Bulls fans. It’s quite early, so I’m not sure this is going to indicate where things go from here, but it’s definitely suspicious. Forget what I said earlier – KICK OUT THE BULLS FANS.
6:29: A camera man has pointed his camera at Squad Six. They are quite full and were quick to get very loud. One guy has an orange tha says juice on it. Another has an orange that says OJ on it. OJ Mayo firmly has this group’s support.
6:31: Jock jams turned into a Sean Paul song. I haven’t heard him in years. Maybe this isn’t him. That’d be a weird choice. If it isn’t him, it’s a guy who is all over his “sound kind of Jamaican (maybe that isn’t Jamaican, I’m not good at accent identification) and make R&B songs” thing.
7:05: Evidence that this is a playoff crowd? Like eight applause breaks during the national anthem.
Mention of the flag? Crowd goes nuts. Bombs in the air? Cheers in the air. Home of the brave? MORE LIKE HOME OF THE LOUD. Everyone is fired up. This is a good atmosphere for watching and playing basketball. I like the playoffs. I’m pro-playoffs.
7:29: Milwaukee’s up 22-18 with 2:20 to play in the first quarter. They’re shooting 50% and have hit a pair of threes. Offensively, they’re finishing at the rim with more frequency. Defensively, they’ve forced three turnovers and the Bulls have yet to be bitten by the 3-point bug. Chicago’s had good looks, but is just 2-5 from deep.
Milwaukee doesn’t seem like its made any defensive adjustments. Still doubling hard on Pau Gasol, still crowding the strong side. But they’ve done at least a passable job of getting to shooters.
7:32: Giannis just scored on a post-up of Tony Snell, after getting fouled on his previous post-up attempt of Mike Dunleavy Jr. He’s been very physical, but best of all, he’s a perfect 3-3 at the rim.
7:41: Giannis in transition after a made basket. Giannis drawing a foul. Giannis finishing through it. Giannis sneering at the crowd and urging them to get loud. 33-29 Bucks.
7:49: After he drops off an assist to Henson and makes a layup, Mayo has certainly made proud the Squad Six members hold up cardboard fruit in his honor.
7:55: Jared Dudley just hit his second three. He’s only hit two threes in a game twice now since February 11. This guy was one of Milwaukee’s most important bench players/starters in the first half! If he’s relevant again, that would make a big difference for hte Bucks the rest of this series.
8:21: The Bucks blew an 18 point lead heading into halftime. That’s distressing. They didn’t blow it all the way, but they’re up only 53-49 as the half starts. They stopped getting as many looks at the rim and stopped converting the looks they did get. Giannis, in particular, was forced to start settling for jumpers that he wasn’t making. In the second quarter he made just 1-6 FG.
Meanwhile, the Bulls took advantage of transition opportunities and scored quickly before the Bucks could get into their half court defense.
The crowd has been great so far. Bucks fans have yelled and chanted. Bulls fans have yelled and chanted. What’s nice about the influx of Chicagoans has been how they’ve forced Bucks fans to be on their game. Everyone wearing green has to be on guard tonight, ready to yell at a moments notice, lest their advantage be lost. Competition makes us stronger. Capitalism.
8:48: The entire third quarter was more or less the Bucks daring the Bulls to shoot threes. It’s actually kind of amazing that the game hasn’t gotten away from Milwaukee.
8:50: The fourth quarter is about to start and if John Henson is not on the court I’ll probably die from a broken heart. It’s a good thing I’m writing this, so the authorities can see it was the fault of Jason Kidd. Pachuila has been … “meh”, while Henson’s continuously provided a spark on both sides of the ball. He’s Milwaukee’s only sure fire threat at the rim. In 17 minutes thus far, he has 11 points and nine rebounds.
8:51: Henson is on the court. I’m alive and well.
8:56: I cannot hear the PA guy as he makes an announcement during the timeout. That’s how loud the “Let’s Go Bulls” chant just got. Bucks fans attempted to match the energy on it, but that B word wasn’t Bucks. In related news, Chicago is up 79-72 and Milwaukee’s shooting 32% in the second half with 8:53 to play in the fourth quarter. A moment ago Jerryd Bayless just took a long two on a possession in which he did not make a pass. That kind of half right now.
8:59: Derrick Rose just hit his fifth 3-pointer. Seven times, he’s shot the ball from behind the 3-point line, which is still the same distance as it was during the regular season when he shot 28% on threes – and five times he’s made those shots.
This was not part of the deal when Milwaukee found out it was playing Chicago. Who can I see about those? Adam Silver? Michael Jordan? James Naismith? Someone needs to get me some answers here.
9:10: Tony Snell 3. Tony Snell 3. So many threes.
The Bucks are likely to talk to the league about the scorekeeping after this game. Chicago has been rewarded 3-points for a ton of their shots. What’s that all about? Smells like the fix is in.
9:18: KHRIS MIDDLETON 3 x 2. On consecutive possessions after stops John Henson has set screens near the top of the key and Middleton has found openings based on how the Bulls chose to defend the screen. Both times he connected for three. Everything I thought I knew and could mock about this team has proven to be false in a matter of minutes. But really, why not more Middleton threes earlier?
At any rate, I’LL TAKE THEM.
9:20: Everyone is very loud. John Henson just missed the back end of his bonus free throws and the Bucks are down one point with 34.5 seconds to play. Of course, you know how this has turned out by now, but I can promise you everyone here has no idea and people are waving their towels and nervously looking around. Why did it have to be Henson on the line? The music playing is instructing us to feel this moment and I feel like everyone is doing so.
9:21: MIDDLETON! A stop gets the Bucks the ball down one and he hits. This is the least expected comeback I’ve ever seen. Milwaukee couldn’t put anything together and now they literally have the lead with 23 seconds to play. Basketball is a crazy game.
9:23: Rose drove to the basket and Giannis blocked him out of bounds … unfortunately he made body contact too. A little too much body contact. Foul. Rose at the line with fans from both cities screaming at this point because who even knows how to feel. Missed the first. Made the second. The Bucks have the ball in a tie game with 5 seconds to play. In the playoffs. Against the Chicago Bulls.
This is the best energy in this building in years. Everyone is in love with the moment.
9:26: Middleton got the shot, because of course he did. Unfortunately, he ended up having to take a three after a dribble and he looked a little bit uncertain. The look was still good, but the result was not.
And after three hours, we’re back with the Rolling Stones. But it’s overtime, so the DJ has opted for “Start Me Up.” A basket that led back to Satisfaction would have been pretty fun for the (slight) majority here
9:29: Overtime is tipping off and the crowd has been instructed to chant Mil-Wau-Kee. I like this decision. The big difference between “Mil-Wau-Kee” and “Let’s Go Bucks” is in the sound. “Let’s Go Bucks” is too easy for Bulls fans to steal. Stick with the city name from here on out and you’ll own the chants.
You know, so long as the Bucks can cooperate on the court.
9:39: Aghhh. Milwaukee had a horrible last two possessions of the first overtime, but defended like crazy so my emotions are mixed. The most frustrating part was MCW missing Giannis on top when Giannis had Noah on him as the seconds wound down. Giannis clapped and called for it, but MCW drove and ended up finding Mayo for a tough, contested buzzer beater.
On the plus side, Mayo came ALIVE during overtime. He was crucial to the success Milwaukee did have.
9:43: Unfortunately the Bucks have opened the second overtime by turning the ball over on consecutive jump passes. My high school coach freshman year, Corey Reed, would be upset. Somewhere he’s watching and he’s frustrated.
We all are, Corey.
Also, the MVP chants have begun for Derrick Rose. Bucks fans are countering with AGGRESSIVE BOOING. It makes for a fun sound sum.
9:49: Things have not improved. Lots of Michael Carter-Williams dribbling around. Not a lot of good shot opportunities for the Bucks. I can’t just blame him – the Bulls have started really bringing it defensively. Guys are having some trouble shaking free. Joakim Noah has literally just stolen the ball out of the hands of his opponents on consecutive possessions.
I’m wondering if the Bucks are feeling the pressure right now. It’s easy to say that when a team is struggling, but really, that’s the only time it would be apparent, no?
I’m only suspicious because there doesn’t seem to be a lot of movement or execution on strategy right now. That could be fatigue and it could just be the Bulls tightening the clamps too. Whatever it is, it’s probably costing Milwaukee its season.
9:52: This game is basically over – 10 points with less than a minute to play. I want to write something like “The Bulls are just too talented”, because I thin that’s basically accurate. But that doesn’t mean the Bucks couldn’t have won this game. If the ball bounces slightly differently on one or two shots, Milwaukee wins.
What that talent gap meant was that the Bucks couldn’t sustain that big lead they built up early on and at best could only hope for a very narrow margin of victory. As the underdog, the less talented, too much was left to chance for the Bucks and tonight, they were not quite lucky enough. They played hard, they did most of the things they needed to do and they had a shot to win, but shots have a high degree of variance.
The Bulls didn’t have to rely on a shot in the second overtime. They took over the game. They mucked up Milwaukee’s offense. They got their hands on passes, created turnovers with steals and took advantage of easy shot opportunities that resulted from them.
They didn’t need a shot. They had already made a bunch of them.