ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — It’s only taken a little over a decade, but next year we will finally see the release of Zoolander 2, the sequel to the cult classic comedy Zoolander. And in a tribute to the upcoming release, the Dallas Mavericks recently put together their own version starring Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, Wes Matthews and Zaza Pachulia. It’s a walk-off!
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 — During last night’s game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Pacers’ bench players, Bucks center Zaza Pachulia ended up hitting the floor. When long-serving ref Dick Bavetta walked past to make the call, Zaza asked for a little help getting up off the floor. And as you can see in the Vine below, that help was not forthcoming…
In L.A., Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded another highlight in the land of highlights.
Giannis, Giannis, Giannis. Throughout the Bucks’ seasonal march toward futility, the 19-year-old neophyte from Greece has kept the league us drooling over his youth, coachable mien and propensity for otherworldly hardwood feats.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — When I was a kid going to Atlanta Hawks games, one year the Hawks announced they would be installing a new, state-of-the-art (at the time) scoreboard. My obvious question was, What would they do with the old scoreboard? Would they throw it away? If it was outdated, what good was it?
A few weeks back we talked about how the Milwaukee Bucks were getting a new basketball court this season, complete with a cool retro design (as pictured above). Since then, there have been a few problems — they installed the new court and nobody could stay upright on it, so much so that a preseason game was canceled. So until they get the grip issues figured out, they’re sticking with the old court.
But once the old court is finally retired, what will the Bucks do with the court? My main man Zach Lowe at Grantland discovered something cool in the works: Bucks center Zaza Pachulia is trying to buy the court to donate to a basketball school back in his native Georgia. As Lowe details…
Pachulia plans to donate the old floor to the basketball academy Martve, in Tbilisi, Georgia, where Pachulia learned the game as a kid. (Toko Shengelia of the Nets also played there growing up.) Pachulia began playing there about 20 years ago, and when he went back last summer to conduct a youth clinic, he was surprised to find the same floor, he says. “It’s in really bad shape,” says Pachulia, who hasn’t yet told the school he will be supplying a new floor at some point.
And as Zaza adds…
“This is my dream,” Pachulia says. “I want to make this happen. It would be really exciting for me, and for the kids in Georgia, to have a chance to play on an NBA floor. So many superstars have played on that court, from the Bucks and other teams.”
Best of luck to Zaza. And just another example of why Zaza is one of the best people in the NBA.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — On this week’s episode of the Hang Time Podcast, we were joined by veteran Bucks forward Caron Butler. Among other things, I asked Caron about Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo. More specifically, How do you pronounce his last name? Butler’s response: He didn’t know. “I just call him rook,” Butler said. While we learn how to pronounce Antetokounmpo, Giannis is becoming a bit of an internet favorite. His latest hit: An Instagram video via by my main man Zaza Pachulia in which Giannis teaches us how to Dougie … –
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Much has been made the last few years about flopping. The NBA’s full definition of a flop is here, but, loosely defined, flopping is when a player embellishes his movement in the hopes of influencing a call from a referee.
It is hard to make a blanket statement here, but for the most part, flopping is a bad thing. (It is hard for me to be completely objecting about this topic mostly because flopping was the part of the game I excelled at when I played in high school.) At its core, flopping is designed to trick the officials into giving you an unfair advantage.
The NBA recently announced that those caught flopping during the playoffs will be subject to a series of escalating fines designed to discourage this sort of behavior.
But perhaps the best way to publicly shame the floppers? Videos like the one below from Slate, set to appropriately dramatic music, highlighting the most egregious flops of the 2012-13 NBA season…
You gotta feel a little bad for Zaza Pachulia last night … sure he finished with seven points and nine boards in Atlanta’s 86-80 win against Orlando. Pachulia, you see, is 0-for-16 lifetime from 3-point range (and 0-for-17 if you include the playoffs). Yet there the Hawks were at the end of the third quarter, inbounding the ball with 1.2 seconds left. Josh Smith passes to Pachulia. He takes one dribble and then heaves the ball from a little bit longer than halfcout. It sails through the air and … swish!
The Heat came to Atlanta Friday night for a friendly regular season matchup. Well, nix “friendly” from the vocabularies of Zaza Pachulia and Udonis Haslem for this one:
Pretty hilarious. Haslem was probably too annoyed at the constant activity of Pachulia to help him up. Or he just doesn’t like him. Or he is a hyper-competitive forward who has survived in this league longer than many thought he would (Haslem was undrafted out of the University of Florida).
Either way, this is par for the course for Zaza, which can only bring a smile to the face of any Hawks fan.
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The Hawks’ Zaza Pachulia has long been one of the NBA’s most engaged entrepreneurs outside of his basketball day job. While some athletes sadly end up in dire straits once their careers are over, Pachulia seems determined to set himself up for success once he finally hangs ’em up.
With that in mind, Zaza has spent parts of the last four offseasons taking executive business courses, for example at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business. This summer he stepped it up a notch, joining the future Zuckerbergs of the world at Harvard for a three-day business seminar, as he recently detailed for Hawks.com:
I like to picture Zaza at Harvard, hanging out with the bad guys from Good Will Hunting, playing the enforcer and causing that scene to play out much differently than it did in the movie (slight language).
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