As a basketball fan, I love Overtime (OT). It means extra basketball, huge stat lines, and nail biting finishes. There have been over 25 games going into overtime this year, each one a battle of endurance and skill.
Almost every game seems impossible to predict, as 20+ point leads are erased in an instant, and multiple players step into the spotlight for the first time to get their team over the line. This is a selection of my three personal favourite overtime battles so far this year.
3. Miami Heat @ Milwaukee Bucks, Oct 26: 131 – 126
The start of the NBA season is notoriously slow, with low viewership and ratings. This didn’t seem to occur to Milwaukee and Miami, who were locked in mortal combat just two games into their schedules.
The new-look but Jimmy Butler-less Miami were meeting one of the strongest teams in the East, 2000 kilometres north of the temperate Miami beaches in their first road game. The Bucks had just taken down the Rockets in Houston and were eager to give their home fans a show, eager for an easy win against a starless Miami team.
The first quarter was a high scoring affair at 29 – 33 in the Bucks favour, highlighted by three three-pointers from Khris Middleton. Historically, Giannis has no problem scoring against Miami, he averaged 27.7 points on 57.8% shooting last season against the Heat. This game seemed to be going all the Buck way, that is until the third quarter. In the third, Miami were showing signs of a comeback.
The Heat didn’t quite have an answer for Antetokoumnpo which didn’t compromise their three-point coverage. But made shots beyond the arc started drying up for the Bucks and the Heat started making little runs. A quick 10-2 run sparked by Miami’s rookies Herro and Dunn, a Bucks turnover here and there and suddenly it was an 11 point game entering the fourth.
This is when the Heat tasted blood and went in for the kill. Excellent defence resulting in two Bucks turnovers and five quick points, making it a 6 point game. The defence against Giannis intensified, double-teaming him on every possession and taking a risk leaving the Buck’s long range weapons open.
Giannis had come up short from distance, missing all but one of his shots outside the paint, and decided his only option was to force himself inside. It looked like the end for the Bucks as they’re forced to foul while down two, with less than seconds on the clock. Suddenly, the Heat were hit with some terrible luck and miss three straight free throws. A long two by Middleton drew everyone’s eyes away from a cutting Giannis, who tipped in the missed shot to force OT.
The end was near for the Bucks, when Giannis was fouled out following a questionable offensive foul call half way through extra time. The Bucks were spent, giving up the ball to turnovers and offensive rebounds without the Greek Freak to anchor them.
The Bucks did what they can to switch up their roster, bringing in Korver, subbing Wesley Matthews out, then in again. Bam Adebayo put the final silencer on the Bucks crowd, swatting away a Bledsoe layup, and finishing off what was a very harsh and humbling lesson for the Bucks.
Bam Adebayo – 19 PTS, 13 REB, 8 AST
Giannis Antetokounmpo – 29 PTS, 17 REB, 9 AST, 3 STL
2. Boston Celtics @ LA Clippers, Nov 20: 104 – 107
Clippers fans finally get what they’ve been waiting patiently to see: Paul George and Kawhi Leonard pairing up for the first time this season. The Clippers chose the right time to bring out the big guns, as Boston entered this game with the best record in the East.
This game was also a test for Kemba Walker, who’s trying to prove this year that he can lead a strong team to a championship; a win on the road at the Staples centre would cement him as the undisputed leader of the Celtics. On the other hand, the Clippers are testing the George/Leonard experiment for the first time, and a loss at home could be devastating to the morale of Clippers fans.
Overall, it was an average-to-bad shooting night for almost everybody. Kawhi only banged down 7 of his 20 shots and only 3 of 10 from deep. Paul George only shot slightly better, and notches 25 points for his efforts.
On the Boston side, things weren’t going so well either. Marcus Smart shot a dismal 1 of 11 from deep and Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker were also shooting under 25%. However, as his teammates floundered, it seemed like nothing could stop Jayson Tatum from keeping his team afloat.
After a slow shooting start, Tatum came alive in the third, hitting 4/5 from deep. Tatum’s next three came at the end of the fourth over Paul George, just after he sent PG tumbling in front of the Clippers fans.
But for this game, the Clipper’s hero turned out to be Patrick Beverly, hustling for offensive rebounds, setting up his teammates and hitting several clutch three pointers in OT, ending Boston’s hopes for a come back in LA. Defence was a huge factor in the Clippers win, as both teams were shooting poorly from deep. LA finished with 9 steals and 12 blocks and forced Boston to less than 40% from the field.
Jayson Tatum – 30 PTS, 12/24 FG, 2 BLKS, 2 STLS
Paul George – 25 PTS, 8 AST, 5 RBDS
1. Houston Rockets @ San Antonio Spurs, Dec 3 (Houston Rockets absolutely dropping the ball): 133 – 135
James Harden was on absolute tear coming into this game, averaging almost 39 points a game so far, trying to spark a winning streak off the back of a huge 60 point game against the Hawks. However, instead of proving themselves as the toughest Texan team in the league, all of the Rocket’s flaws were put on full display.
Houston began the game by shooting 1 of 8 from deep in the first quarter, staying competitive mainly off James Harden’s incredible will to score. The Rockets only increased their three point output in the second quarter, but this time it began paying off. With over 50% for the quarter, it seemed like Houston’s “Big Offence Wins Games” strategy was working.
The Rockets maintained their lead, despite some excellent defensive efforts by Jakob Poetl and not-so-excellent defence from Houston. Spurs stalled in the third and, with slightly more than 2 minutes left in the third, Austin Rivers shoots a 27 foot 3 pointer to make the score 95 – 72, giving the Rockets their biggest lead of the game.
The three-point strategy, and things in general, fell apart in the fourth for the Rockets. Excellent playmaking and defence by the spurs and an insane shooting sequence from Lonnie Walker kept Houston from giving any of their players rest, having to fend off countless scoring opportunities from San Antonio.
Then, four minutes and ten seconds into the quarter came Harden’s controversial uncalled dunk, pushing the momentum in the Spurs’ favour. Walker scores 11 points in the last 3 minutes, tying the game, and Jakob Poetl ensured it went to OT with a last second block on Harden.
Missed shots and foul trouble for the Spurs kept the first OT tight, with no team getting any kind of momentum. Defence was turned up a notch with Houston locking down San Antonio’s first play. Up by three with 90 seconds left, a lapse in Rocket’s defence gave Bryn Forbes a wide open three. What followed was a battle of the free throw; each team testing the other’s nerve, tying each other and daring the other to miss.
DeRozan cracked first and the score differential was only one in San Antonio’s favour. The ball was in Houston’s court, and they had the opportunity to end the game with 3 seconds left. James Harden had the ball, and the clear the strategy was to score off the drive or draw a shooting foul.
It would have worked, if it weren’t for the hero of the fourth quarter, Lonnie Walker, stepping in and drawing the charge on James Harden, resulting in free throws and the win for San Antonio. This was a dominant performance for the second year rookie, who scored a career high 28 points in front of a sold out home crowd.