This may have been the strangest finish I’ve seen in my handful of years covering Milwaukee Bucks games.
Another candidate would be when the New York Knicks came to town, and Andrea Bargnani launched a ridiculous 3-point attempt with the Knicks up two points and eleven seconds remaining in overtime. The reactions from his teammates alone made that one a little more laughable and bizarre. At least, I can understand what Avery Bradley was thinking on Tuesday night.
He saw an opportunity, and he went for it. The Bucks inbounded the ball to Khris Middleton with one second to play in a tie game. He had his back to the basket, and as he turned to get into a shooting motion, the ball was kind of out there. If you’re a skilled defender like Bradley, who gobbles up steals at a high rate, it’s gotta be hard to turn off that instinct. So, towards the ball went his hands.
The strange part was how it looked. Both of Bradley’s hands went towards the ball and Middleton’s wrists. It almost looked like an intentional foul. The Bucks were in the bonus, there was one second left, the game was tied … this was as far from an intentional foul situation as you can get. And Bradley said that’s not what he was trying to do.
“I’m just trying to make a good defensive play, trying to be aggressive,” Bradley said. “The ref made a great call.”
The whole thing was made stranger by the play that preceded it. With the Bucks up two and one second remaining, the Celtics tried an inbound lob to tie it up. Before they could complete the play though, Jerryd Bayless was called for a push into Kelly Olynyk’s back, putting the Celtics forward on the line. Olynyk hit two and everyone was left wondering how the Bucks could blow this game.
Until the Celtics blew the game.
|Jabari Parker, PF 27 MIN | 5-12 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-1 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -4 +/-
A fairly standard night for Parker, who could have been in danger of moving to the bench alongside Carter-Williams and Monroe if Milwaukee had any power forwards in reserve.
|Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF 37 MIN | 6-12 FG | 0-1 3FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | 0 +/-
His stat-stuffing is always welcome. There was a few possession stretch where he once again amazed. He followed a steal of a Marcus Smart pass with a sprint down the court resulting in a dunk, then came from the weak side to pin a shot against the backboard, leading to another Bucks fast break on the next possession. The way he not only puts up consistent numbers, but strings together two, three or four high impact plays is what indicates he has such a special future.
|Miles Plumlee, C 18 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -8 +/-
He showed some similar activity as a starter that he had shown recently off the bench. An early block was the result of him darting from the weak side to help against Jared Sullinger and he finished around the rim, as he has been doing. Fine work, overshadowed by an incredible night from Monroe.
|Khris Middleton, SG 38 MIN | 6-16 FG | 2-7 3FG | 6-8 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 20 PTS | -5 +/-
Milwaukee went to Middleton down the stretch and he delivered, in a couple different ways. With the game tied after a big Jae Crowder three, Middleton directed Milwaukee’s offense as the clock wound down. He was patient and careful. With four seconds left he made an entry pass to Monroe, who had the undersized Crowder on him. Monroe took Crowder just outside the paint and lofted in a short hook to give Milwaukee a lead. Kudos to Middleton on not forcing up a jump shot and recognizing a teammate’s opportunity.
The Bucks went back to Middleton after Boston’s improbable free throws with a second left. Avery Bradley’s terrible foul sent Middleton to the line and he knocked his first free throw down, ending the game. He’s a good free-throw shooter and everyone expected him to deliver, but certainly those are no sure thing under pressure.
|O.J. Mayo, SG 18 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-2 3FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -2 +/-
His move to the starting lineup didn’t mean much – he was back on the bench with two fouls just three minutes into the game. His impact wasn’t very obvious, but the six assists against just one turnover speak to his ability to make some impact without wasting possessions with bad shots or forced action.
|Greg Monroe, C 30 MIN | 13-21 FG | 0-0 3FG | 3-6 FT | 12 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 29 PTS | +11 +/-
Monroe looked as dominant as he’s been all season in the third quarter. He checked in with about seven minutes to go in the quarter and poured in 12 points. Every time down the court he was able to establish position and present himself as a threat that the Celtics needed to worry about, which left openings for a Giannis dunk, a Middleton three and some other good looks.
He took his move to the bench in stride and gave a team that’s lacked consistency lately a big lift. He’s been solid on offense all season, but he took his game and his impact to another level on Tuesday night, when it would have been easy for him to pout. That’s professional.
|Jerryd Bayless, PG 32 MIN | 5-9 FG | 4-6 3FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | -4 +/-
Without Bayless, the Buck would be shooting under 33% as a team from the 3-point line this season. As it relates to the team’s ability to space the court, he’s the opposite of an anchor – he’s a buoy.
|Michael Carter-Williams, PG 26 MIN | 6-8 FG | 0-1 3FG | 4-6 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | +7 +/-
He was making floaters and finding Greg Monroe all game long. When he’s able to lay off the gas and ride his teammates that are playing well and finish shots he doesn’t usually finish, then he looks like a legitimate starting NBA point guard.
|Rashad Vaughn, SG 14 MIN | 1-2 FG | 1-2 3FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +10 +/-
The two 3-pointers Vaughn attempts on Tuesday night were two of the highest arching threes I’ve seen all season. He has a fair amount of arc on his shots usually, but these really soared, it seemed. The first attempt, from the corner, grazed the rim and hit Monroe directly in the face, which wasn’t a pretty sight. But the second almost ripped the net in half on impact.
Two Things We Saw
- For all that was made of Kidd starting Miles Plumlee and OJ Mayo, it certainly didn’t have much of an effect on the minutes Monroe and Carter-Williams received. Maybe they’ll be back in the starting lineup on Thursday. Maybe it was just a way to look at different combinations. Maybe we’ll find out in a year or two that they were late to practice, and that’s what caused them to head to the bench. For now, Kidd said before yesterday’s game that he still expected regular minutes from Monroe and MCW, and that’s what we saw.
- The Celtics made a big run in the fourth quarter after allowing the Bucks to put up and almost unfathomable 40 points in the third. Milwaukee was +20 in the third quarter and -18 in the fourth. Boston did a much better job of handling Monroe with quick double teams, which led to a few turnovers and some missed shots late.