Milwaukee Regains Momentum Thanks to Middleton


Humans have always been fascinated with seeing the future.

Even today, mediums of suspect talent claim to foresee better lives for clients. And any too-smart fan can race to an online bookie with a million-dollar hunch.

True, Vegas unthinkably lists Milwaukee as a massive favorite tonight, giving the Deer a much better chance to win everything. But as the Bucks’ marketing arm correctly observes, you gotta respect the past if you want to own the future. Thankfully, we only have to look back a couple of days to see tea leaves indicating a successful weekend.

By examining game three, fans can understand how a city’s pride is now attached to its surging pro basketball team.

Acted Upon By Unbalanced Force

Momentum is a slippery concept. Statisticians have trouble finding it, and some argue it isn’t real. Phil Jackson probably has the best perspective: a team can go on a run, but it takes a lot of energy. After the power wears off, there can be a counter-run. When Trae Young hit a three to push Atlanta’s lead to 25-10, the Bucks knew it would take a lot of energy to fight back.

True, our Bucks may not be expert scientists, but any pro ballplayer knows Isaac Newton’s first law of motion: an object will keep moving until an unbalanced force acts on it. In this case, the force was from an emotionally balanced P.J. Tucker, who grabbed an offensive board. Khris Middleton scored a layup, then hit a floater.

Perhaps Newton could have built a brick ceiling to protect his head from apples. But thankfully for the Bucks, the Hawks have no such wall capable of deterring Giannis.

The Greek Freak finished with 33 points on 13-of-21 shooting and primarily dominated in the first 36 minutes. True, one could look at past box scores and find better lines. The Freak’s main contribution Sunday, however, was the fundamental bedrock of momentum: discouragement. The Bucks repeatedly raced past Atlanta in transition, and Atlanta couldn’t pull away.

Milwaukee limped to the finish when the Bucks fell behind Toronto in game four in their last conference finals. This year’s Deer, however, are savvier. A more mature Giannis led his team to a halftime draw, and the game entered its second phase.

Equal And Opposite Reaction

The Bucks kept battling, although the Hawks wouldn’t fade. Until that is, Milwaukee got two significant breaks. First, a 2021 Bucks ally-oop staple went awry, but this time, happily.

Tucker’s fortunate play pricked another thistle into a now-anxious home crowd. Decades of Braves and Falcons disappointed jaded Georgians, and by 2021 the state is in constant paranoia. Sure, it looked like the Hawks can crucially lead 2-1, but would something go wrong for seemingly no reason?

Forty-seven years of struggle to return to the Finals pinpointed its frustration in a single stepback. A karmic reprieve for a city too passionate to be kept from basketball’s grandest stage, and perhaps a mild behaviorist shock to a superstar not quite ready to become the state’s GOAT.

Bucks Lead doesn’t want to hear about crooked refs: the official was standing in precisely the correct place. It was a random accident but a critical opportunity. Luck is when an opportunity presents itself and a team is ready. Young’s sloppy footwork allowed Middleton to destroy a city’s dreams.

Young couldn’t contest Middleton tightly with his ankle pain, and Kha$h took advantage.

Try to put a security guard to guard Kha$h? He’ll buy you off.

By the game’s end, Milwaukee had poured decades of not-quite into three hours of resurgence and, ultimately, dominance. The Hawks’ reactions? Fade into the warm Atlanta night while the Bucks reorganized for a vital game four.

Crystal Ball

Atlanta and Milwaukee have fought for too long for either one to concede any game. Atlanta, accustomed to being counted out, will come out clawing tonight. Milwaukee won’t lose its concentration for a moment, and if it does, Khris and Giannis will provide an emphatic push towards the Hawks’ hoop.

Unfortunately, Bucks Lead has no psychics on its staff. But it doesn’t take one to see what the Bucks will offer the rest of the series: an unwavering effort to right 47 consecutive unfulfillments Milwaukee’s Finals birthright.

Follow us on Twitter @BucksLead for the latest Bucks news and insight. 

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About Jeffrey Newholm

"Jammin Jeff" Newholm had been a basketball fanatic since his high school days, and remained a casual fan as a student in Whitewater. Wishing to check in as an active participant, he also completed a writing certificate program at UWM. He loves seeing Bucks games more than any other activity in hometown Milwaukee and especially screaming really really loudly to get someone to miss a free throw. Twitter: @JeffreyNewholm

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