Will Middleton miracle be a springboard for Milwaukee Bucks?


To call the Milwaukee Bucks’ 89-88 win over the Miami Heat on Tuesday night unlikely would be to insult all of the other unlikely victories that have ever occurred.

No, this was so far beyond unlikely that it lands somewhere in the neighborhood of almost impossible and “are you f***ing kidding me?”

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The Bucks trailed the Heat by 16 points early in the fourth quarter and were very much in danger of falling into a tie in the loss column with Miami for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Since the difference between sixth and seventh in the East appears to be the difference between a first-round matchup with the growing juggernaut that is the Cleveland Cavaliers or potential series with the banged-up Chicago Bulls or slumping Toronto Raptors, yeah it’s a big thing.

The Heat were up 88-85 with 17.5 seconds left when perennial All-Star Dwyane Wade missed a free throw that would have made it a two-possession game.

Khris Middleton missed a 3-pointer for the tie—not a shock considering he was 4-for-16 overall and 1-for-7 from deep after the misfire—but Ersan Ilyasova tracked down the board and was fouled.

He hit one of two from the line, missing the second.

Jerryd Bayless made a terrific hustle play to tie up Heat forward Michael Beasley to set up a jump ball between the 6-foot-3 Bucks guard and the 6-foot-9 Miami frontcourt player.

What happened next is best seen:

Yes, Bayless won the tip from a guy a half-a-foot taller, got the ball back, but missed the layup.

Zaza Pachulia was the man on the spot, tracking down the loose ball and getting it to Middleton behind the 3-point line as time wound down.

And Middleton shot it with all of the confidence of a guy who was 7-for-7 from out there, not 1-for-7.

Just like that, Milwaukee’s six-game losing streak was over and the Bucks were 2½ games up on Miami for sixth place.

Bayless credited his legs.

“I’ve got bounce, man,” Bayless told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, adding a big grin. “No, I was just able to get it. I tried to time the ref. I got lucky. I missed the layup, but Za made a great play to Khris and Khris knocked it down.”

Mar 24, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Khris Middleton (22) shoots the game wining shot as time expires during the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Milwaukee won 89-88. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Middleton became the first player since Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009-10 with two game-winning 3-pointers in one season. He also daggered the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 15.

Now the question is whether or not the emotional win over Miami can get the Bucks’ listing ship stabilized.

Michael Carter-Williams struggled against the Heat, finishing with four points, four assists and six turnovers before fouling out with nearly eight minutes remaining. Bayless bailed out the Bucks with 37 gritty minutes and 10 points, five dimes and one really good bounce.

The Bucks went after the glass—hard—on Tuesday, out-rebounding the Heat by a whopping 53-34 margin as Ilyasova (19 points, 11 rebounds), Pachulia (14 points, 11 boards) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (16 points, 10 rebounds) all finished with double-doubles.

That Antetokounmpo also blocked three shots isn’t a surprise. That Ilyasova also swatted three is almost mind-blowingly surprising.

The Bucks (35-36) were off Wednesday and return on Thursday, getting the Indiana Pacers at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Indiana will be coming in off a back-to-back after beating the Washington Wizards on the road Wednesday to improve to 31-40.

The rest of the remaining schedule for Milwaukee shapes up like this:

  • March 28: Golden State
  • March 30: at Atlanta
  • April 1: Chicago
  • April 3: at Boston
  • April 4: Orlando
  • April 8: Cleveland
  • April 10: at New York
  • April 12: Brooklyn
  • April 13: at Philadelphia
  • April 15: Boston

Honestly, with the exception of a Cleveland team that may already be locked in at No. 2 in the East on April 8, everything after that delightful Golden State-Atlanta-Chicago gauntlet could be winnable.

That’s not to say those games aren’t winnable, but the Bucks are a combined 1-6 against those three teams this season (0-1 against the Warriors, 1-2 against the Hawks and bagel-and-3 against the Bulls).

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  • It’s been a trying last month-plus for the Bucks since the trade deadline, when Brandon Knight was sent to the Phoenix Suns.

    With the win, Milwaukee is now 5-13 since the All-Star break (or the trading deadline, since those happened to be the same this year) after going 30-23 in the first half of the season.

    A winning season isn’t a necessity for the Bucks to make the playoffs—the eighth seed is projected to finish with 46 losses at this point—but it would be a nice accomplishment after winning only 15 games a season ago.

    The last team to finish above .500 a season after winning 15 games or fewer was the Miami Heat in 2008-09, who went from 15-67 to 43-39.

    If nothing else, Tuesday’s emotionally charged victory will give us all an object lesson in whether or not momentum is a real thing.

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