This messy, fluid, injury-riddled, unpredictable and dramatic season has its mascot: a seven-game saga after the Bucks hit back to win Game 6 for the Nets, 104-89 Thursday night.
There have been more MRIs than road wins in this series. The teams won by scoring 125 points, the teams scored 86. There was an Ages Game, Kevin Durant Game 5, and games that seemed to go on for centuries.
It has been a season of quantity rather than quality: do what needs to be done to get it and hope for the best. This is how this series has gone, with game plans scrambled or thrown flat in what feels like a mix of fighting demons and a war of attrition.
Brooklyn’s rotation has changed with every game. Milwaukee’s loyalty to their game plan has been too.
“This series is a bit unique,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “For them it’s been a shifting shift from night to night. We have to be ready for whoever is playing in Game 7. It could be a different game. “
Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo played like they were in an elimination game for Milwaukee, showing an advantage and focus that you’d rather see every time they step up in a playoff game. They had 68 points, 27 rebounds and eight assists. Middleton had five interceptions and two four-point games. Antetokounmpo finally stopped biting the hook on the shot jumpers, as he attacked the rim with 11 of his 12 field goals coming from inside the paint.
Durant and James Harden, meanwhile, played like two guys who weren’t so desperate and were tired of their emotional victory in Game 5. They scored a few points, Durant 32 and Harden 16, but their 11 combined turnovers spoke more of their team’s performance. The Nets were outscored by 25 points when Durant was on the ground.
You’d like to suggest the Nets were saving energy for Game 7, but given that Harden and Durant played 40 minutes apiece, that’s not really true. They’re just trying to do their best.
“Our guys were a little tired, we didn’t have our best assets,” said Nets coach Steve Nash. “We were just faced with a little too much going against us, overall. “
Is that what you want to hear about a closing game in what some thought, at least two weeks ago, was the de facto final this year? No, but it’s straightforward. It’s your 2020-21 NBA season!
LeBron James made waves this week when he berated the NBA for scrambling this season and lamented he was not listened to when he warned it would lead to injury. The league office felt threatened enough to issue a counter-narrative, saying injury rates were the same as in previous years.
This misses the point. From this season to Christmas and in 72 games, an All-Star Weekend, a play-in tournament and the regular-length playoffs has never been a health debate. No one really believed James was right about the risks.
It was always about making the most of a bad situation, financially and competitively.
True to form, this is what the Bucks and Nets will do. They will show up for Game 7 and they will play for the right to make the final of the Eastern Conference. What you see is what you will get. But they will give what they have.
“It’s the playoffs, man,” Bucks forward PJ Tucker said. “We dream about it all our life. I stop at nothing, I fight for every square inch. We are competing and we are fighting and we are going to fight again in the seventh game. “
Maybe it will be great, maybe it will be mundane. But it will be as serious as possible. After all, it’s a 7 game.