Resilient Bucks March Forward to Next Quest


Not many Bucks fans need a reminder about the valley-oop, Jrue Holiday‘s pass to Giannis for the game-sealing Finals dunk.

But what’s easy to overlook is — in hindsight — a terrible decision by Monty Williams. Williams decided not to use his final timeout on the previous possession, allowing Holiday to steal the ball from Devin Booker.

Improbably, Holiday found himself in the opposite position Wednesday. Holding the ball down one with seconds left, the possible demise of the Bucks’ most significant rival, Miami, lay in the balance.

But it wouldn’t do for fans to only focus on the last ten seconds, as is too tempting in today’s age of 20-second Tweet videos. Instead, consider the whole context of the season-defining moment and further contemplate how it positions Milwaukee for a crucial showdown in Chicago.

East Roulette

Roulette is an impossibly tricky game. How in the world is a gambler supposed to select the correct number? As the Eastern Conference standings change every day, NBA fans face the same issue. Where should the Bucks ideally finish? One? Two? Four? Phil Jackson had the best perspective: always play to win.

And it doesn’t take a hall-of-fame coach to know the inconsistent Bucks could darn use a win against the best team in the East. (Although Mike Budenholzer may get there soon, with his 200th Bucks win on the line.)

Milwaukee and Miami traded runs, but the Heat seemingly struck last. Already up 14, Miami’s Max Strus shot a three that had all the look of a dagger.

Sometimes, in basketball, you need a little luck. The shot bounced harmlessly away, and fortunes shifted towards the good guys.

Before one could correctly pronounce Antetokounmpo, the Bucks had cut the deficit to four. But after Giannis missed a shot and the Heat rebounded, success looked doubtful.

But not to Khris Middleton.

Absolute Zero Fear

Miami seemed content to run out the clock, leading one fan to wonder, “what the heck are you doing? Foul!”

But coach Bud’s strategy worked brilliantly.

After the Heat had to use their final timeout to prevent a five-second violation, Giannis hounded Jimmy Butler, leading to a jump ball. (A foul instead? Eh, perhaps. But after being stuck behind LeBron James for a decade, the Bucks could use a makeup call.)

Timeout? It turns out Holiday has a bit more savvy than Booker. Keeping Gabe Vincent safely ahead of him, Jrue bully-balled into the paint, leaving Vincent now helplessly on his back.


Well, not quite, as Tyler Herro had an unlikely shot to win it. But in contrast to Miles Bridges‘ heave that almost won it for Charlotte in December, the NBA saints didn’t consider intervening for the exhausted Heat.

The healthy contingent of Heat supporters at Fiserv Forum sleepwalked, flabbergasted, out of the stadium while the party had just begun for Bucks fans.

But as Giannis learned after his 50-piece Chick-fil-A, eventually, a new game begins. So who is the Bucks’ next meal?

Charging At Bulls

Friday night, the Bucks continue their spin around the wheel of NBA time in Chicago against the much-improved Bulls.

The last time the Bulls legitimately contended, Jerryd Bayless‘ incredible buzzer-beater extended a thrilling playoff series. Although Milwaukee wasn’t realistically going to win from 0-3 down, the shot allowed the Bucks to start building momentum.

Now, the Bucks are NBA lords, and the Bulls want basketball’s domain. (Although Chicago is coming off a challenging loss to another East pretender in Trae Young and Atlanta.)

The Bucks can officially become the East’s third seed with a win.

Lose, and they’re lonely in fourth, in some danger of losing first-round home-court advantage.

But while time may be a flat circle, at some point, Giannis and Jrue have/had/will have choices. They could rest on past accomplishments and cruise with comfortable paychecks to Mount fil-A.

Or, along with Khris, they can maintain a basketball hunger to remain the world’s best hoops trio and announce to the Eastern Conference that they’re still the most challenging team to beat. That the Bucks, in humble Milwaukee, have more pride than even the brightest lights in America.

Bet on Bulls red at your peril; Bucks green, although few, still dominates the crowded NBA playoff field.

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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