The game could have been a movie, the action on the sidelines could have been a soap opera, and the dialogue between Kevin Durant and his longtime friend P.J. Tucker a stage play.
But with all the drama that spilled onto the floor in an epic overtime game 7 on Saturday night that saw the Milwaukee Bucks outlast the Brooklyn Nets 115-111, all the exhaustion that led to fatigue and respectful hugs afterward, this was it the end result: the stars of the Bucks are healthy and are in the conference finals.
Whatever the Bucks’ mistakes – and they exist – this could be their golden chance for the golden trophy. It could be the best position they’ve had since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson in the 1970s. Not even these Hall of Famers won a Game 7 on the road for the Bucks.
Some time could be spent discussing why, given the Brooklyn injuries, it had to be so hard for Milwaukee to slip a few games – and almost the crucial Game 7 itself. But that was all prologue, them survived the series.
“We kept our cool throughout the series,” said Giannis Antetokounmpo after scoring 40 points with 13 rebounds in 50 minutes that ended up depriving him of a lot of his normal strength.
“We fell back 2-0, we were able to come back. We lost a game with 15” [points in Game 5]. And against all odds, we were able to come here in game 7, guard KD and win. “
Against all odds, maybe but definitely at the forefront of Durant’s shoe, which scratched the 3-point line as he took his last brilliant shot of his brilliant streak that gave the Bucks another chance.
The way the Bucks came through on this series was embodied by the Brook Lopez veterans center. The Stanford-trained tall man (though banned once for skipping lessons) seemed inexplicably forgetting that the shot clock was late in regulation and the Bucks absent-mindedly costing an important possession even though there had just been time off to be to organize .
But in overtime, when Durant ventured to get to the edge, Lopez stuck with the game and made an important block that helped keep Durant goalless in overtime – ultimately the deciding factor in the win.
Durant had a statistic that shouldn’t go down in history: 48 points in 53 minutes without leaving the floor. His performance on the series was one of the best for a losing player in league history. If there had been an MVP for the conference semifinals, Durant would have won it. And because of this, this win doesn’t get an asterisk next to the Bucks. They absolutely deserve it and overcoming Durant’s efforts feeds their hope for the rounds to come.
P.J. Tucker called a tough foul on Kevin Durant and while KD shoots free throws, he’s having fun with Durant’s mother on the sidelines.
One who won’t take it for granted is Tucker, who as a member of the Houston Rockets couldn’t get past Durant’s Golden State Warriors teams. For a split second, he thought he’d missed it again when Durant pulled the long, wild sweater over his arms that forced the extension.
“It hurts. It hurts me. It was a fight every single night,” said Tucker, whose back and forth with Durant spilled over to Durant’s family and friends at court in a good-natured way. “Getting over the hump is pretty nice.”
Of course, the bucks aren’t quite over the top. Technically, they’re only halfway there.
They killed last year’s kite and sent the Miami Heat on a confidence-building sweep. Brooklyn opened as a big series and championship favorite and was even 49 points ahead of Milwaukee with James Harden on the sidelines in Game 2. Even on Saturday, sports betting installed the Nets as easy favorites, despite Kyrie Irving being out and Harden obviously still disabled.
The Bucks were 0-5 in Brooklyn that year and were notorious for screwing up tight playoff games. Jrue Holiday was a 2-of-17 shooter by the end of the fourth quarter. Khris Middleton couldn’t buy a shot. The referees allowed a brutal, physical game in that second-round final – Blake Griffin sometimes fought with Antetokounmpo, and the smaller nets survived in the trenches and got away with almost anything.
There are lots of great talent and great teams at home or on vacation. The bucks are still there.
“There have been many ups and downs in the series. There have been many ups and downs in this game. Everyone fought extremely hard,” said Antetokounmpo. “I got almost emotional out there, we really wanted that.” You don’t always walk down the aisle to get a master’s coronation. Sometimes you hit the other guy with the tip of his Nike shoe.