What just happened?
With 7:34 left in the fourth quarter, the Milwaukee Bucks held an 18-point advantage over the Denver Nuggets. With such a large lead and little time remaining, the Bucks held a 99.6 percent chance of escaping the thin Colorado air with a big win, according to Inpredictable.com. Things did not go as planned.
The first link in this improbable daisy-chain of events came with 3:43 remaining. With Milwaukee's lead cut to nine, superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo fouled out of the game on an offensive charge.
Still, with veterans like Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, and Jabari Parker in tow, holding on for the victory wasn't out of the question. Unfortunately, Antetokounmpo's removal proved to be an indelicate surgery, and they just couldn't stop the bleeding.
A Nikola Jokic layup cut the deficit to three with 30.6 seconds on the clock. The Nuggets first had a chance to even the score after Parker whiffed on a nail-in-the-coffin nine-foot shot with 7.7 seconds remaining, but Paul Millsap turned the ball over. It should've been over - the game, and possibly the Nuggets' playoff hopes - right then and there, but they wouldn't quit.
With a three-point lead and possession with 2.9 seconds left, all the Bucks had to do was keep possession. But, Middleton mistimed the inbound attempt to Jason Terry, and second-year guard Jamal Murray plucked the ball out of the air and unfurled it from 3-point range with hardly a moment to spare. The attempt clanked off the back of the rim, but the refs called a shooting foul on Terry, sending Murray to the line for the potential game-tying free throws.
As if injected with Rocky Mountain ice water, Murray hit all three - part of a flawless 10-for-10 night from the charity stripe. He'd finish with 27 points.
The Nuggets pulled away in overtime for a 128-125 victory. Jokic lead the way with 35 points and 13 rebounds - though the ever timely Murray was clearly the hero of the night.
It's hard to overstate how badly Denver needed this win to keep their postseason hopes alive. Mike Malone's crew started the day just outside the playoff picture, fighting with the Los Angeles Clippers for a chance at stealing one of the final playoff berths in the Western Conference from the likes of the Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves, or New Orleans Pelicans.
While their fate still lies in the performance of the teams ahead of them in the standings, for one night at least, the Nuggets can rest easy knowing they did as much as they could. It was undoubtedly the most significant performance of their season, and one of the most miraculous comebacks in recent NBA memory.