The Milwaukee Bucks had the opportunity to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race on Tuesday afternoon at the NBA’s Disney bubble. All the Bucks had to do was beat a Brooklyn Nets team so compromised by injuries, opt-outs, and nine positive Covid-19 tests that it only had one player from its opening night rotation available for the game.
The Bucks were a 19-point favorite in most sports books. The Nets’ starters included the likes of Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, Rodions Kurucs, and Lance Thomas. The most interesting thing about this game felt like the debut of Jamal Crawford, who signed with Brooklyn ahead the bubble as its roster began to disintegrate.
There was no way the Nets could win this game, right? Right?? Well, to steal an old marketing slogan, never forget that the NBA is where amazing happens.
The Nets actually did it, beating the Bucks 119-116 while starting a lineup that consisted exclusively of veteran cast-offs, draft busts, and unproven youngsters. The Bucks will lock down their No. 1 seed eventually, but it wasn’t going to happen on Brooklyn’s watch.
This is one of the biggest upsets in NBA history
The Nets closed as 19-point underdogs and beat the Bucks 119-116.
It is the 3rd-largest upset in the NBA in the last 30 seasons. pic.twitter.com/jJTCJWWUxl
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 4, 2020
There hasn’t been a bigger upset by point spread since the NBA since 1993, when the Dallas Mavericks knocked off the Seattle SuperSonics. Yeah, it’s been a while.
The Nets closed with moneyline odds of +1600. That means the chances of a Brooklyn victory weren’t just unlikely, they were basically incomprehensible. The Nets pulled it off anyway.
If you bet on the Nets — particularly the moneyline — in the this game, congrats. Now go buy a lottery ticket because it must be your lucky day.
How did the Nets pull the upset? By shooting lots and lots of threes
The final box score for this game is wild: Brooklyn went 21-of-57 from three-point range, good for 36.8 percent from downtown. That’s the ninth-most threes an NBA team has ever taken in regulation.
The Bucks were firing from deep all afternoon, too. Milwaukee finished 17-of-51 from behind the arc. It was enough to bring a tear to Daryl Morey’s eye:
I’m getting older & things are changing everyday & if I’m honest, not always for the better.
Back in my day teams didn’t both shoot 50+ 3pt shots – no sir. We took shots that gave us fewer points to show our skill at making hard shots and we liked it!https://t.co/neO6dXbuix pic.twitter.com/Aw9MiTjl3u
— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) August 4, 2020
Morey’s Houston Rockets teams are responsible for six of the seven most three-pointers ever attempted in a single game. The Nets didn’t quite get that high on the list, but it was a jarring outlet nonetheless.
Don’t worry about the Bucks
This game would have been different if Milwaukee was committed to playing its best players throughout. Giannis Antetokounmpo only played 16 minutes, and finished the game 7-of-8 from the field before the Bucks decided to rest him. Khris Middleton also only played 16 minutes, and Eric Bledsoe only played 18 minutes.
Even if this loss is nothing to fret over just yet, it did drop the Bucks to 1-2 in the bubble. That wouldn’t be so notable were it not for the Bucks’ incredible start to this season:
Bucks first 60 games: 52-8
Bucks last 8 games: 2-6
Giannis missing games and not having much to play for is part of it, but it also re-emphasizes how absurd their start to the season was. Getting Bled back ahead of MIA/DAL/TOR should make for good test of where they are now.
— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) August 4, 2020
Did the Rockets tell the Nets the secret to beating Milwaukee?
Houston defeated the Bucks on Sunday. Do they know something the rest of the league, doesn’t?
Garrett Temple said the Nets saw the Rockets over by the pool yesterday. Told them they had the Bucks and apparently gave them some tips on how to beat the Bucks.
— Alex Schiffer (@Alex__Schiffer) August 4, 2020
Well, probably not, but it’s a fun to imagine pool secrets shifting the NBA’s title picture.
What happens in the bubble stays in the bubble, apparently.