More Bucks Against LeBron?
The alternate ending was plain to see: LeBron cuts in front for the steal with five seconds left, flies down the court, pulls up from 33 feet, hits the game-winning three at the buzzer. The Cavaliers make it 19–1 in their last 20 games while LeBron bids the Bradley Center farewell with his second and final iconic moment in the building (the first being that night he went for 55 back in 2009 in what remains the hottest heat check game of his career), and the Bucks fall for the fourth straight time, this time blowing a 20-point fourth quarter lead.
This would have been shocking and not the least bit surprising.
Instead, we got this.
LeBron remains miles away. The torch-passing is not imminent. Giannis found a little something on the ground there with a five seconds to go. And what it was, was the biggest win of the year. It was not the torch. LeBron spent most of the night as he spends most of his nights — swimming in the grandeur of singularity.
There was the fadeaway jumper to start the game 2–0, the alley-oop finish, the finger-wag after the Middleton blocked-dunk (although, maybe it was just a purely missed dunk?), the comically predictable block of Dellavedova on the break, the step-back three to tie it 110–110, the pull-up three with two seconds left to draw within 118–116 when it seemed like it was over.
I tell you: Even that full-court heave at the end was straight-on. (By the way, thanks, Dwyane Wade, for preserving that 28.9 percent career three-point percentage by dribbling out the clock at the end of, what was it, the third quarter. Never know when three points might come in handy though, eh?)
It was just a December game, but LeBron wanted it. He wants everything, and damn near has it. This time, Giannis — and not just Giannis, but most of all Giannis — took it. Same as all year, Giannis did nothing to dissuade you from thinking that he is the next line in the East, far off as that line may be.
Again, just a December game, but the margins in the East standings are thin. With this win, the Bucks are half a game out of fourth in the East behind Detroit. The top three (Boston, Cleveland, Toronto) have separated from the rest, but that four spot is wide open. Getting it would mean home-court advantage and favorite status in the first round, along with potentially sitting on the opposite side of the bracket of the Cavaliers, if the Celtics hold on to the top spot (and beating the Cavaliers certainly helps with that). Had the Bucks lost on Tuesday night, they would have been out of the postseason bracket altogether.
With the playoff picture crowded as it is, the Bucks could match up with the Cavaliers in the first, second, or third round. Winning games like the one on Tuesday helps push the possibility to later rather than earlier. LeBron may still make it back to the Bradley Center again after all. Regardless, Giannis will be around.