Let’s all process this together, because that shit was a lot.
Jimmy Butler raises his pivot foot and parks himself in the lane awaiting a baseline cutter (Duncan Robinson, who it usually is) to wrap around and find his way toward the top of the key with the ball. Instead, Butler falls over, and the Milwaukee Bucks win a subsequent jump ball. But despite shooting 3-for-18, Butler has the ball in his hands for the final possession in regulation. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo does not shut Butler down and is fairly easily blown by for a game-tying layup that sent the game into overtime at 99.
But wait, Khris Middleton, minutes after overselling an elbow to the face, gets to his strong side and hits the game-winner with 0.5 seconds in OT.
The Bucks are up 1-0 against the Miami Heat, but who is supposed to feel better about this? Sure, it’s Milwaukee, but they only won 109-107 despite Butler (4-for-22), Bam Adebayo (4-for-15), and Tyler Herro (2-for-10) combining to shoot 10-for-47. But can the Heat feel awesome about, well, losing, for one, but holding Milwaukee to 16 percent shooting from three, limiting Giannis to an inefficient 10-for-27, and hitting 20-of-50 (40 percent) from three thanks to an awesome Robinson performance?
And given that we’re only no more than 25 percent done with the series (likely less), we still have many more questions that need to be addressed moving forward. Will Bam actually take the mid-range jumpers he’s being left open for? Will Butler find the offense he displayed time and again during the season? Will Giannis continue his poor shooting from the field and on free throws where he was 6-for-13? And does his elbow hurt that badly? (He had to put on a sleeve after this.) Is Jrue Holiday being the anti-Eric Bledsoe just enough of a difference for Milwaukee this time around? Or is unlocking Tyler Herro the key for the Heat to beat the Bucks again, as they did last season in only five games?
And the biggest ones will be answered in game two: What will Erik Spoelstra, arguably the league’s best playoff coach, do to adjust the Heat’s gameplan? And how will hot-seat holder Mike Budenholzer, famously bad at making adjustments, ready his Bucks for a possibly different look Heat in game two?
But what we know is that it was splendid. It wasn’t the bullshit defense that allows underwhelming teams to score 140 on regular-season nights. It wasn’t some blowout where one team wasn’t ready to play. It was the start to the official playoffs we wanted to see, and we’ll all gladly sign up for seven games of this.