ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Who loves pizza? Everyone loves pizza! Here are two videos featuring NBA players not eating pizza, but making it. In Milwaukee, John Henson is really into making this sausage and pepperoni pizza. Meanwhile, in Miami, Michael Beasley is making pizza and delivering it to a Heat season ticketholder’s home. (Where she just so happens to be wearing a Heat jersey when Beasley shows up.)
Just being in the game was accomplishment enough for the Bucks. Just getting the final shot was improbable enough for Khris Middleton.
But then for Milwaukee to come from 16 points down with 9:53 remaining Tuesday night and from 12 behind with five minutes left to beat the Heat 89-88? For Middleton to go from missing six of seven shots behind the arc and 12 of 16 overall to the hero with the three-pointer at the buzzer? The finish was nothing short of unreal.
Given the jerking change of direction in the game, the potential long-term implications in the standings, the unlikely star of the night and the emotional value for a team that would treasure so much as an uneventful win, it would be hard to find many bigger March moments anywhere in the league.
It had that too. Middleton was standing at the arc, a few feet left of straightaway, so he was able to have his feet set. What he wasn’t able to get was an easy look. He had to hurry to beat the clock. He had a defender charging at him, right arm extended for the block.
The only easy part — of the entire possession, actually — was the decision to shoot. With the game an instant away from ending in a Miami victory, Middleton had no choice. The result was near-perfect. The ball barely touched back rim before going down without a fight.
It took Milwaukee outscoring Miami 21-9 in the fourth quarter just to get the Bucks within 88-86 with a final chance off a jump ball with 9.8 seconds remaining at the free-throw line close to the basket where the Heat were defending. It had taken a lot of uphill climbing just to get in position to complete the comeback. And then it took more.
Jerryd Bayless, a a 6-3 guard, won the tip against 6-10 Michael Beasley, knocking the ball backward to Middleton. Bayless’ drove down the right side of the lane and missed a layup amid a crowd of Heat defenders with about five seconds left. Milwaukee’s Zaza Pachulia saved the ball as it was going over the baseline, twisting his body back toward the court and flinging a two-hand pass in the direction of the top of the key. Middleton controlled the ball and fired from 24 feet out with about five-tenths of a seconds to go.
The Bucks were on a six-game losing streak and staring straight at No. 7. They were sinking in the Eastern Conference standings, to where they were beginning to get a decent view of the lottery, and Miami was one of the teams putting pressure on them from behind. A lot of the good of 2014-15 was unraveling.
To say Tuesday night was an important win, then, doesn’t begin to cover it. Huge is more like it. If the shot turns out to be the launching pad to a Milwaukee recovery and the Bucks find solid footing again to reach the playoffs, it becomes their regular-season highlight.
A finish like that deserved a reaction like that. Middleton turned toward the other basket and ran into the arms of teammates who had come off the bench. The Bucks who had been near the other end rushed down to join the party. Middleton quickly disappeared under the madness of a gang tackle near one of the sidelines, at the feet of fans. Fun had broken out again in Milwaukee.
Crazy finish, tough shot, playoff implications, bedlam on the court in all the right ways — the Bucks delivered everything. It’s still only March and not the very end of the regular season, but skidding Milwaukee needed that in a big way. Four Horrys.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The Miami Heat lost LeBron James over the summer, but they kept Dwyane Wade, who has become one of South Florida’s favorite sons, not only for his on-court achievements. Wade has always been involved in the community, such as two years ago when he surprised a local fan at her prom.
This year, in conjunction with Hublot, Wade surprised a group of 15 foster kids from the Voices for Children Foundation who were doing well in school. Wade invited them into the Heat locker room gifted them with watches and custom suits, and talked to them about the importance of dressing for success. Great stuff…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Say this for Brandon Bass: He just won’t quit. Take this play last night in the Celtics/Heat game. Somehow, after making a wild shot, Bass lost a shoe. As everyone ran to the other end of the floor, Bass went with them, shoe in hand, playing with one stockinged foot. Luckily for Bass, the Heat didn’t really take advantage of this, and Bass almost grabbed a one-handed rebound in the process.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Shane Battier may have retired and moved into a career in broadcasting for ESPN, but he is still involved in Miami, where his charitable foundation, the Take Charge Foundation, is based. And once a year, Battier holds a charitable fund raiser in the form of an event called Battioke, where the Heat throw their pride to the wind and perform embarrassing karaoke in front of a crowd.
Last night was the most recent version of Battioke, and it provided some real gems. Let’s start with Heat president Pat Riley, who performed an ear-splitting rendition of the classic “Twist and Shout”…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — It’s unclear exactly what has happened in this clip. I’ve watched it in slow motion about five times and am still unsure how this happened. Either way, Orlando’s Aaron Gordon is out on the perimeter when all of a sudden his right shoe shoots off his foot and flies from the three-point line, into the paint and ends up down under the basket. While the shoe is doing its thing, Gordon drives into the paint wearing one shoe and takes a shot. And as Gordon is driving, Miami’s Chris Andersen delivers a swift kick to Gordon’s bouncing shoe and boots it out of the lane. Crazy play.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last week we saw perhaps the worst inbounds play of all-time, a play that topped Shaqtin’ A Fool and was, truly and honestly, one of the strangest things I’ve seen in an NBA game.
Well, last night the Phoenix Suns seemed determined to follow the Heat’s lead, and they pulled something very similar. The big difference is the Suns did it much faster, almost as if they thought doing it quickly would hide from the fact that they were trying to inbound the ball twice. For what it’s worth, it didn’t work. Good job, good effort, though.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — As a kid growing up in Mountain View, California, Tyler Johnson knew he wanted to be an NBA player. He figured his best shot of getting there was to learn from the best, so he targeted a basketball camp held by his local NBA team, the Golden State Warriors. There was on problem, though: Johnson’s family couldn’t afford the camp. So he put pen to paper and wrote a letter to the Warriors asking for a scholarship to their camp. He got the free ride, kept putting in work, eventually got a college scholarship to Fresno State, this summer played for the Miami Heat’s summer league team, went to training camp with the Heat and then signed with Miami’s D-League team.
And earlier this week, all that work paid off when Johnson made his NBA debut with the Heat, in Oakland against the Warriors, with his family in the stands. As Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said, “Everything he’s got in this game, he’s earned. You can tell just from the little bit of time we’ve gotten to know him since Summer League, he’s an extremely hard worker and you root for those type of guys.”
No kidding. Here’s a video from the Warriors who got a copy of Johnson’s letter from his Mom…
Welcome to Throwback Thursday here on the All Ball Blog. Each week, we’ll delve into the NBA’s photo archives and uncover a topic and some great images from way back when. Hit us up here if you have suggestions for a future TBT on All Ball. Suggestions are always welcome!
Today’s TBT topic: LeBron James
Back on Oct. 29, 2003, LeBron James made his NBA debut in a 106-92 loss to the Sacramento Kings. Since then, he’s provided his fans and the NBA with countless memories and accomplishments, including (but not limited to) championship runs, MVP awards, Olympic gold medals and more. Although he’s been in the league for 11 1/2 seasons, he just turned 30 on Dec. 30 and much of his career is still ahead of him.
To honor James’ birthday, we look back at the career of this living NBA legend:
(NOTE:Click the “caption” icon below the photo for details about each moment.)
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Yesterday the Miami Heat hosted a special holiday matchup against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. This was, of course, LeBron’s first game back in Miami since leaving in the offseason to return home to Ohio. The Heat may have won, but after the game, LeBron and Dwyane Wade each took to Instagram to let people know that while they’re now on opposite teams, they’ve remained friends off the court…