Anteto says goodbye

The Greek, injured, watched from the bench as the Bucks rowed to die on the shore. The Heat will play their first Eastern Finals since LeBron.


The debacle was confirmed. At least that of the Bucks, who go home with one hand in front and the other behind after a fourth game that was a mere mistake by the rival and that was also the only moment of glory in a series that is over but that for them never started. And a time of debate opens that will consist of discovering the best way to make Anteto, that consolidated man but with much to prove, stay in a small market franchise that has dreamed of the ring for the first time since the 70s, when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (at that time Lew Alcindor) and Oscar Robertson brought to the showcases the only championship that the entity has. Just a ring and timid attempts to get hold of another that has never arrived (George Karl and Ray Allen were relatively close in 2001) that only enhance the work that the board has to do to retain the Greek player, which is intended by media NBA and contract ends in 2021.

In the process, Mike Budenholzer may well fall, who had an extra life that Middleton gave him after the fourth game and whose increased optimism he has used so that his team showed an extraordinary start (28-19 at the end of the first period) that has been countered by the know-how of Spoelstra and the Heat, who at halftime had already turned the scoreboard (46-52) after leaving their rivals with 18 goals in the second period. From there, the advantage was of a team that never took off but that always controlled an opponent in streaks and without the magic that allowed them to take, almost as if it were a miracle, the fourth game. This time Miami was not deterred by a Middleton who went to 23 + 7 + 6 but with 8 of 25 in shots from the field, including a 2 of 9 in triples. Brook Lopez (15 + 14) played more on the inside in the absence of Anteto, who did not recover from his sprained ankle and watched the game from the bench, always cheering, as if wanting to redeem a sportingly questioned personality and with a roof that people do not know where it is or if it will be reached. But neither Middleton nor Lopez raised a team that pitched 9-for-33 from 3-pointers and had DiVincenzo or Marvin Williams (who announced his retirement at the conclusion) as assistants who accompanied but did not decide.

Reflection time opens in Milwaukee. We'll see where the shots go, but it seems difficult that they can do something immediately when most of their players are still under contract. Hardly people like Pat Connaughton or Sterling Brown will be free agents, something laughable for a team that must do something to convince Anteto to stay in the only franchise he has been in as an NBA player. Budenholzer looks askance as he realizes that he is still a regular season coach, something that he already showed in Atlanta but that some did not want to believe. And Anteto thinks about how to manage the succulent offers that multiply in the form of rumors and assesses whether to stay in a team adrift from which obviously is not the problem ... but, for now, not the solution. In fact, his teammates seem to have been comfortable in piusta without him, another very recurrent debate between big stars that has never had the same conclusions.

What about the Heat?

It's very possible that we weren't fair to the Heat. The Bucks debacle has caused us to focus on the negative and not praise one of the most surprising, revolutionary and extraordinary teams of the season. The Heat are a franchise with strong pillars but easy mutation, with a liquid formwork that allows it to adapt to game and roster changes and always remain competitive. This has happened since Pat Riley came to the franchise in the late 90s, giving up the last year of the most lucrative contract that a coach had ever signed (Phil Jackson would arrive at the Lakers ...) to change Madison for Florida and put on the map to a team that had never been without him. The substitute on the benches that he could not find in Stan Van Gundy (Shaquille had something to do with it) did have it in Erik Spoelstra, that man who started editing videos and ended up winning rings and who is the coach, along with Carlisle, who is the longest He has been in the same franchise behind the endless shadow of Gregg Popovich.

Riley, from the comfort and security that Spoelstra gave him on the track, took a secondary seat, a place with more room to stretch his legs, deny LeBron a new descent to the bench and move the strings of fate. This he has done relentlessly these years until reaching, with great patience, the first Eastern finals since LeBron himself left the franchise in 2014. And with a net team and completely built by his privileged mind, which has taken advantage of players not drafted (Duncan Robinson, Kendrik Nunn), has chosen his draft rounds the right way (Tyler Herro), has turned Goran Dragic into an institution and Bam Adebayo into the man of the future. With that, and with Jimmy Butler as a franchise player (Riley knew he brought the right character), the Heat have flown and have known how to play against everything and everyone under the command of one of the most talented coaches in the current NBA (if not the what else) and with the invaluable help of veterans (Haslem on the bench and Iguodala on the court) who complete a squad that no one counted on but that does not stop having all the necessary ingredients for a championship.

We don't know if the Heat are going to take him and they may need time and coercion, but they are fighting for it. They are four games away from the Finals, and today, the house brand, they have had six players over ten points (17 + 10 + 6 from Butler), defending as a block and leaving a team at 94 points that during the year he has averaged 118.7, more than anyone in the NBA (without Anteto, yes). Little more to add about a franchise that is facing an opportunity that nobody expected but that they have earned, justifying a construction that goes from the structural to the sports and that is supported by Spoelstra on the benches and Butler and company on the track. And by Riley of course, that dimensionless being who has few things left to prove and who has once again certified why he is one of the most brilliant minds in the history of this sport. The Heat, to the East finals. Yet, with everyone and with his messiah, that man who has left his mark in a competition impossible to understand without him. Miami dreams. And he does it because with Riley, you know, anything is possible.

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