ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — When an NBA player is waiting to check into an NBA game, they’re usually asked to take a seat in front of the scorer’s table, so that the timekeeper can remember to blow the horn and let the refs know there’s a sub waiting to check in. During Wednesday night’s Portland/Milwaukee game, while Wesley Matthews was waiting to check in, a referee stopped by the scorer’s table to ask a question, and from Matthews’ reaction, the ref may have gotten a bit too close for comfort.
The Bucks are off to a better-than-expected start to this season, and just imagine if they weren’t on the wrong side of a pair of buzzer beaters. In the season opener, the Hornets’ Kemba Walker made not one, but two beaters — at the end of regulation for the tie and in OT for the win — and then Monta Ellis dropped a stunner a few weeks ago.
Well, the last shot finally belonged to Khris Middleton and Milwaukee in a thrilling win Tuesday in Phoenix, when the teams combined to score eight points in the final dizzying 23 seconds. Markieff Morris (25 points in a terrific game) made a layup, followed by a Brandon Knight jumper, followed by a Morris jumper from the free throw line with four seconds left, setting up the dramatics.
This was another solid showing by the Bucks who, after losing five out of six, beat the Clippers and now are above .500 after the first of a four-game Western swing.
The Bucks did the old give-and-go, with Middletown inbounding the ball to Jared Dudley, then getting it back. Middleton had a rather decent look at the rim from 28 feet and, with precious seconds ticking, took the open 3. The ball skidded off the rim, then kissed off the backboard before falling in at the buzzer. It wasn’t the prettiest, but when did style points ever gout when the game’s on the line?
The Bucks and Suns played a fairly tight second half and the basket-swapping in the game’s final half-minute was fun to watch. Interestingly, the Suns looked for Morris, whose offensive game is growing steadily, and he responded. Even more interesting: Phoenix was ready to inbounds the ball with 4 seconds left but quickly called timeout when the Suns’ defense proved to be alert. Jason Kidd drew up a completely different play and instead of using Knight as the inbounds passer, switched to Middleton.
The Bucks are testing the always dangerous West Coast waters and so far, so good for a team that’s trying to see where it stands and how much further it needs to go. The only blight on the victory over the Suns was a knee injury to rookie Jabari Parker, who had to be carried off the floor. Fortunately, it was initially diagnosed as a sprain. Meanwhile, Phoenix is one of those West teams that sure wishes it played in the East.
As you might have expected, there was joy from a Bucks’ team that had lost a pair of games to buzzer beaters this season. Middleton was mobbed at mid court by the bench and then the players sprinted off the floor while the shot was being replayed by officials. The Bucks didn’t care. They already knew the result.
The execution by the Bucks was solid and Middleton’s shot was sure, although it did require some friendly bounces off the rim and glass. We’ll give it three Horrys.
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 Topic: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s streak ends
From the time he entered the league as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1970 Draft to his departure after the 1988-89 season, one thing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could always do was score. He retired as (and remains) the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and, from 1970 to 1987, he scored in double figures in every game he played.
But, his run of double-figure scoring games stopped at 787 on Dec. 4, 1987. Ironically enough, the streak ended against the Milwaukee Bucks — team that drafted Abdul-Jabbar and with whom he spent his first six seasons.
In light of this moment, we take a look back at Abdul-Jabbar’s record-setting career that included 18 All-Star bids, six MVPs, two Finals MVPs and a host of other honors.
You know, if the Mavericks decide in the future to give the ball to Monta Ellis instead of Dirk Nowitzki, that wouldn’t be such a terrible move, you think?
Look, this is still Dirk’s team, but Ellis proved once again Wednesday night that, in the clutch, he’s every bit as reliable as his future Hall of Fame teammate. With Dirk on the bench resting a creaky back, Ellis chopped down the Bucks and this is starting to become habit-forming. He’s proving to be quite the go-to guy this season and it could end up putting him in the All-Star Game for the first time in his career.
It was his sixth career game-winning basket in the final 5 seconds and the first since last December against the Blazers. But look at this recent closing streak by Ellis: 15 points in the fourth quarter against the Raptors … 14 in the fourth and OT against the Bulls … and against the Bucks, he scored the Mavs’ final eight points and 10 of their last 13. That’s dominance.
Keep in mind that the Horry Scale measures more than just the game-winning basket. Other factors are weighed that make the buzzer-beater truly epic, or merely run-of-the-mill. Although I think we can all agree that no buzzer-beater is routine. That said, let’s study the scale of Ellis’ latest clutch bucket.
Ellis went one-on-one against O.J.Mayo and it really wasn’t a contest. Ellis backed Mayo down, made a quick move and then from 17 feet launched his game-winning bucket on a fadeaway off one foot. From a cosmetic standpoint, it wasn’t the prettiest, but it was effective. Strangely enough, the Bucks didn’t send any help for Mayo, perhaps fearing a wide-open shot by Chandler Parsons. But given Ellis’ play of late, maybe you take that chance.
“They’ll be watching that shot for the next day and a half on SportsCenter,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle.
Ellis wasn’t having the most accurate shooting night (11-for-26) but the Mavericks needed him. Dirk played 42 minutes of a double OT game the night before in Chicago. In the other uniform, Brandon Knight was willing to get into a fourth-quarter scoring exchange with Ellis and for a while was winning that contest. Knight hit a jumper over Tyson Chandler with 8.9 seconds left to tie the score after two Richard Jefferson free throws. The game was suddenly up for grabs, which means it was a situation suited for Ellis.
Well, any game the Mavericks win especially without Dirk, is important if only because they’re playing in the West. In a conference that once again is amazingly deep with quality, every loss counts. Oh, and Kevin Durant is back for OKC and you can expect the Thunder to rise in the standings. So there’s that as well. The Mavericks improved to 8-3 on the road, the mark of a team to be taken seriously.
Monta did a little strut as he sashayed off the floor, followed by his teammates, who dashed through the tunnel. It had to be especially sweet for Ellis because he played for the Bucks two seasons ago. Maybe he felt he wasn’t as appreciated in Milwaukee, but based on his performance, he is missed.
Ellis is clearly on a tear and there are nights when this is his team, even with Dirk on the floor. This was one of those nights. He rescued the Mavericks when they appeared to be reeling against a very improved and frisky Bucks’ team. Milwaukee wanted to use this game to make a statement about where the franchise is and where it’s headed. The Bucks are better than anyone thought, based on the first month of the season. But the statement instead was made by a player who’s one of the more underrated guards in the game, and perhaps the most talented player never to make the All-Star team. Give it four Horrys.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Do you guys remember “The Newlywed Game?” Probably not, I guess, but it was a television game show that had its heyday in the ’70s, where couples who were recently married would sit on a set and try to answer questions about each other. It was funny because the answer often illuminated just how little the couples actually knew about each other. And in some sense, I suppose being teammates is like being in a marriage — you go from knowing of someone to spending all of your time with that person, which means getting to know that person, all their likes and dislikes.
In this video from a pair of Milwaukee Bucks teammates, we see Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kendall Marshall, who have been teammates for less than six months, playing a version of the Newlywed Game. (Bob Eubanks not included.)
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Bucks rookie Jabari Parker sure knows how to win over fans in his new home of Milwaukee. In the video here, he dresses up like one of the Blues Brothers (he never specifies if he’s Jake or Elwood) and then gives out copious amounts of candy to unsuspecting kids who were out for Halloween. Except that one times when he drops the candy bucket and he makes the kids pick it up — way to instill a strong work ethic, JP.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — We’re still in the NBA preseason, but Jason Kidd and the Milwaukee Bucks are already in midseason form when it comes to trick plays. Kidd, you’ll remember, had a few tricks up his sleeve last season when was coaching the Nets, such as the game where he “spilled” a drink on the court to get a free time out. Last night against Minnesota, guard Bucks Nate Wolters trotted over toward Kidd on the sideline as if he was going to call a timeout, and when the defense made a similar assumption, Wolters had a clear path to the rim. Nifty play…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Being really tall has benefits if you’re an NBA player, but it also comes in handy if you’re doing things that require you being near the ceiling. So perhaps it makes sense that Bucks big man Giannis Antetokounmpo was recently named honorary fire chief in Milwaukee, where he went home to home installing smoke detectors. Here’s a video of Chief Antetokounmpo (and some of his Bucks teammates) doing good work…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — All summer long, we’ve seen NBA players throwing out the ceremonial first pitches at baseball games. Not just major league games, and not just from active NBA players, but from NBA-related folks (coaches, retired players) all over the place.
I’ve been collecting these videos for a few months, and now we present them, all of them, in several parts, because there’s a lot to get through.
And so, here are a bunch of NBA people throwing out the first pitch at baseball games…