Always trust your gut.
On May 20, I wrote, “I dunno, I’d rather face the Sixers in the second round than the Bucks, just on the principle of who’s more likely to do a comical self-immolation.”
Then, when the Nets played the Bucks in the second round and beat Milwaukee by 39 in Game 2, I lost my way, writing, “The Bucks are done. They might still come back and win a game or two, but they’re done. And maybe for good, because getting beat like that, at this time of year, is a huge red flag.”
The Bucks rallied. The Sixers, in their series against the Hawks, did a comical self-immolation. And now the Bucks, in the third straight series that they’ve trailed, are one win away from their first NBA title in 50 years. Saturday night, Jrue Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo teamed up for the play of the game, and maybe the series, to stun the Phoenix crowd, and somehow, me, having long since discounted the chance that this Milwaukee team could go all the way.
Why does this feel surprising? Milwaukee won 60 games in 2018-19, and last season were on a 66-win pace when coronavirus shut down the season. They’d actually been on an even better pace than that just two weeks earlier, sitting at 52-8 before losing four out of the last five pre-quarantine games. They lost to the Heat in the second round, but retooled around Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton in the offseason, and the thought was that they might take time to… you know what, just go back to what I wrote in our NBA preview:
“What To Expect: Even if it takes a while for the new group to jell, it’s still Antetokounmpo’s team and the Bucks should glide to the division title. It’s the question of what happens to them in the playoffs, and another year of the classic parlor game, Is Khris Middleton A No. 2 Player On A Championship Team Or Just The Best Player Ever To Have Been On The Fort Wayne Mad Ants?”
Middleton had 29 points, seven rebounds, and five assists in the biggest game of his career, as the Bucks came back from an early 16-point deficit and held on after letting their own 14-point lead get down to one. The former Mad Ant made the free throw with 9.8 seconds left that made it a two-possession game and provided the final 123-119 score.
Middleton is the third-leading scorer in the Finals at 25.4 points per game, right behind Antetokounmpo (32.2) and Devin Booker (30.0). He’s fourth in rebounds and assists in the series, too. So, he’s done his part to come out on the right side of that preseason question. It’s just down to whether Milwaukee can win one more game to finally answer a whole half-century’s worth of questions.
Just Mets things
The Mets were up by six runs going to the eighth inning. The Mets were up two runs going to the bottom of the ninth inning. The Mets lost, 9-7, on a walkoff grand slam by Jacob Stallings, on which Kevin Pillar made an incredible try for a catch, but got stuck going over the wall.
But none of that is what really stings for the Mets.
No, what really hurt was Edwin Diaz, who’s been so good this year, doing the old Hansel Robles move, pointing skyward on a ball that, yes, was in the air, only it also was on its way out of the ballpark.
The Mets, who once again have to fret about Jacob deGrom’s health, remain in first place as the only team in the National League East with a winning record.
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