There’s a group of five players getting a good amount of run together this year, and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite units on the team. It’s the Happy Fun Ball lineup, consisting of Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Jonathon Simmons, Davis Bertans and Dewayne Dedmon.
It features high BBIQ basketball players at all five positions (important), three potent shooters (also important), a big man that can catch and finish lobs in traffic (also, also important) and an athletic wing in Simmons that can beat bench defenders off the dribble when they help too far off Mills or Ginobili. It has everything.
Pop has utilized Happy Fun Ball primarily at the end of the first and third quarters, and it has yielded excellent results. The HFB has outscored opponents by 24 points in 33 minutes this season — amounting to a 34-point edge over a 48-minute game. I’d like to see this unit continue to play together because it has potential to be one of the better reserve units.
(If you’re not familiar with the reference, go here and jump to the 38 second mark.)
Milwaukee probably should have lost Tuesday night — perhaps by a large margin.
Instead, the Bucks walked off the AT&T Center court with an improbable 109-107 victory after Manu Ginobili’s wide-open corner 3-pointer caromed off the side of the backboard. With the game on the line, Kawhi Leonard created a quality look by diverting the attention of three defenders to deliver the pass to Ginobili, who’s shooting .400 from 3-point range this year.
Even then, it shouldn’t have reached that point. San Antonio, winner of nine consecutive home games, built a 12-point lead early in the second quarter. The offense was humming. Leonard brandished the full capacity of his game. Milwaukee was without its best player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, for the entire second half, after it had became increasingly apparent that he wasn’t fully recovered from his sickness. The likely All-Star played nine minutes in the first half, missed all three shots and had little impact on the proceedings.
In Antetokounmpo’s absence, the Bucks leaned on a guy who was once expected to make spectacular scoring performances seem routine. That expectation was back in 2008 when Miami selected Michael Beasley with the second pick in the draft. Since then, Beasley has flamed out, taken refuge in the Chinese League, and appeared with six NBA teams in eight seasons. His latest stop is Milwaukee, where he’s typecast as the eighth, ninth or 10th player in the rotation depending on how you slice it.
Beasley is averaging a modest 8.9 points and 3.4 rebounds off the bench this season and he has more single-digit scoring games (19) than double-digit scoring games (13). Still just 28 years old, and with enough raw basketball ability to bully most bench players around, Beasley has the potential for spirited scoring efforts.
Tuesday night Beasley and Leonard were tangled in an unlikely scoring battle, with the visitor pitching in 28 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals off the bench, including what turned out to be the game-winning assist to rookie Malcolm Brogdon. Beasley bullied Davis Bertans into the paint, forcing Pau Gasol and Danny Green to help in the paint to contain his drive to the rim. It left Brogdon wide-open for the go-ahead 3-pointer, which he nailed.
Milwaukee made the most of circumstance, while San Antonio was the victim of circumstance. Bertans, completing another productive performance off the bench, had a chance to reclaim the lead for the Spurs as the clock expired. But the ball shimmied its way around the rim and out.
Bertans, a member of the new generation of the Spurs bench mob, gave way to Ginobili, a pioneer of the Spurs bench mob. Neither finished, leaving Beasley and his squad as the winners.
It bears repeating: Beasley, a NBA journeyman relegated to the nether regions of Milwaukee’s bench, single-handedly stole a game away from San Antonio.
2017 is weird.
Kawhi Leonard: 30 points on 10-16 shooting, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks, 2 assists, 2 3-pointers, 8-10 from the free throw line.
Kawhi is good at basketball update: Nine of his 13 career 30-point games have occurred this season. Here’s another non-stat testament to his basketball excellence: On one possession in the third quarter, Kawhi recovered on defense, helped David Lee, blocked Greg Monroe, recovered when Monroe had the ball again, then forced Monroe to lose the ball out of bounds for a turnover.
Oral history of Manu Ginobili’s missed buzzer-beater
“Manu was wide-open. And we got the shot we wanted.”
— Kawhi Leonard
“We shouldn’t be in that position to begin with.”
— Pau Gasol
“I thought it was goodnight. I thought he was going to make it.”
— Jason Kidd
— Manu Ginobili
By the numbers
- 9: game winning streak at the AT&T Center was snapped with the loss.
- 14: game winning streak when Davis Bertans scores at least one point was also snapped.
- 15: consecutive games scoring 100+ points, the Spurs’ longest streak since 2014.
- 32: assists on 44 field goal attempts for Milwaukee.
- 60.7: Milwaukee’s true shooting percentage — which is an all-inclusive shooting metric that takes into account field goals, 3-pointers and free throws. The Bucks were positively en fuego from the field, shooting 52.4 percent from the field, 52.6 percent from 3-point range and 84.6 percent from the free throw line.
- Davis Bertans is dope. That is all.
2017: The Spurs are coming out of timeout with drawn up alley-oop plays.— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) January 11, 2017
Some guys do dumb stuff when frustrated. Kawhi gets mad and blocks two dudes on the same possession.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) January 11, 2017
Kawhi isn't a system player. He's the system, player.— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) January 11, 2017
Taco Bell menu item of the game
*Disclaimer: This section is not sponsored by Taco Bell. I'm just a huge fan. It's in my Twitter bio (@quixem), after all. Direct any negativity towards Taco Bell in the comments below. It's cool. I don't mind.
Last night’s game was Taco Bell’s $5 cravings deal, which consists of a cheesy gordita crunch, a burrito supreme, nachos, a crunchy taco and a baja blast. It’s a great value and you’re really digging the food until about 3/4ths of the meal is complete. Then you are filled with regret because you ate so much food then you enter the self-loathing stage because you regret eating so much food. It’s a viscous cycle. That was Spurs-Bucks, basically.
And that’s a wrap. Until next time ...