The term “must win” gets thrown about far too loosely in sports. Not every situation is THAT dire. But for the Milwaukee Bucks in their series versus the Miami Heat, it was a must win. The very antithesis of what the NBA Playoffs are all about: win or go home. Looks like the Bucks weren’t quite ready to go home just yet.
Giannis came out of the gates as if the season was on the line, because it was. The NBA MVP put up 19 points in just over 11 minutes. Domination we’d yet to see in this series from him. He was hungry, he was ferocious, he was present… until he wasn’t. Giannis rolled an already tweaked ankle and could not return. It was on the rest of the squad to find a way to keep their season alive. Enter: Khris Middleton.
It’s not as if Middleton has been terrible this series. He came into today’s game averaging 23/5/7. That is nothing to scoff at, but, in an 0-3 hole, it didn’t feel impactful. It did today. After cooking the Heat for 21 points in the third quarter and closing the game with 9 points in overtime, which was more than the Heat team combined, Middleton’s impact was undeniable. He finished with a 36/8/8 line and a season saving victory.
Middleton’s performance will get all the headlines and rightfully so. His game was the reason there will be a Game 5, after so many of us didn’t see that as a real possibility. But the team as a whole came up with clutch moments. Donte DiVincenzo could’ve folded after missing the first of two free throws, with 1.9 seconds remaining in regulation. It went from being a game-winning situation, to a season-ending situation if he misses, to a game-tying situation after he made the second free throw. A gamete of emotions in a very short time, that called for focus and execution. Both of which DiVincenzo put on full display, sinking the throw.
The Milwaukee Bucks showed more heart in Game 4, than they have in Games 1-3, combined. Game 5 is a new challenge, but the stakes remain the same. With the MVP or not, it’s win or go home. Doesn’t matter how they get it done, so long as they do.