Magical seasons that turned into nothing

By Javier Ascoli

The 2019 Season was magical for the Baltimore Ravens and the Milwaukee Bucks, but many struggles in the Playoffs did not let both teams get the Vince Lombardi and the Larry O’Brien trophies, respectively. Both teams had four things in common.

1. Best record in the regular season

2. Had the Regular Season MVP (Lamar Jackson and Giannis Antetokounmpo)

3. Got 1st seed into Playoffs

4. Got upset by much lower seeds in Playoffs (Tennessee Titans, 6th seed, and Miami Heat, 5th seed)

The Baltimore Ravens were the best team in NFL last season. They started the 2019 season with a huge 59-10 win against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. The star quarterback Lamar Jackson threw 5 touchdowns with no interceptions, he became the youngest quarterback to throw a perfect passer rating. They suffered their first loss at Arrowhead Stadium in week 3, it was a close game, but the Chiefs outscored the Ravens 23-0 in the second quarter, and at the end, Lamar Jackson’s offense didn’t have time to come back in the game. In week 4, the Ravens suffered their second consecutive loss and their only Regular Season home loss. This, against the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens never had the lead on the game, and the Browns played probably their best game of the season. After, they went undefeated and had important wins. A 26-23 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a 23-17 win against the Bengals, a huge 30-16 win at CenturyLink Field against the Seattle Seahawks, a 37-20 win against the Patriots, a 49-13 win against the Bengals, a huge 41-7 win against the Texans, another huge win against the Rams in Los Angeles 45-6, a 49-yard winning field goal from Justin Tucker in a rainy game to beat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17, a close 24-17 win against the Bills clinching a Playoff berth, a 42-21 win against the Jets, clinching the AFC North, and to finish the season, two divisional wins against the Steelers and Browns. The Ravens finished the season as the number 1 AFC seed, winning the AFC North.

Lamar Jackson dominated the league in his first full season as the Ravens starting Quarterback. He broke many records, rushing and passing. Jackson had a crazy year, finishing the season as the Most Valuable Player. Jackson rushed for 1,206 yards, the most yards for a Quarterback in a single season. He was the quarterback with the most rushing touchdowns (7). He led the NFL in passing touchdowns (36). Lamar had nine perfect passer rating games, and he threw 3,127 yards. Jackson was selected to his first Pro Bowl and was the NFL’s First All-Pro team starting Quarterback.

Playoffs were a different story for the Ravens. Since they had the 1st seed in the AFC, they got a bye week for the Wild Card Weekend. They will face the winner of the Patriots vs Titans on the Divisional Game. Surprisingly, the Tennessee Titans beat the Pats on Tom Brady’s last game as a Patriot, so the Ravens needed to face the Titans, and beat them to advance to the AFC Championship game. It was Lamar Jackson’s first Playoff game. In the first Raven’s drive of the game, a pass bounced off the hands of TE Mark Andrews and was picked off by Kevin Byard, and Ryan Tannehill threw an 8-yard touchdown to Jonnu Smith. The first quarter ended up 7-0, Titans led. Ryan Tannehill threw a 45-yard bomb to Kalif Raymond for a 14-0 lead. Justin Tucker converted two field goals to reduce the lead and end the first half 14-6. Baltimore received the ball in the second half, their drive was good, but they failed to convert a 4th down and 1 in Tennessee’s 18-yard line. Two plays later, Derrick Henry made a 66-yard run, and later threw a 1-yard jump pass to Corey Davis to extend the lead 21-6. On the next possession Jackson fumbled the ball, and the Titans score, 28-6, Titans led. The Ravens responded with a 27-yard run by Lamar Jackson, but later Jackson threw an interception. The Ravens forced a punt and Lamar threw a 15-yard Touchdown to his tight end Hayden Hurst but failed the two-point conversion. The Titans did not score, but their defense stopped the Ravens, forcing two turnovers on downs in the last two possessions. The game ended 28-12, the Titans won. Ryan Tannehill just threw 88 passing yards, but Derrick Henry’s 195 rushing yards were enough to finish the Ravens.

The Titans won in both sides of the game, their defense stopped Lamar’s powerful offense, and their offense handed by Derrick Henry destroyed the Ravens defense. They did not make errors and took advantage of the Ravens’ errors. Ravens’ running backs ate many yards over the season, and in that Divisional matchup, their running backs just rushed for 42 yards. The Ravens' biggest mistakes were not looking for solutions to stop Derrick Henry, O-Line struggles, and failed on physical.

Now the other side, the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Milwaukee Bucks had an amazing regular season, they finish with the best record in the whole league (56-17). The Bucks were dominant in both, home and away games. Why? Simple, Giannis Antetokounmpo. This team, led by the Greek Freak, just allowed 101.7 points in 100 possessions. They had an amazing defense. They have great mobility, they cover well, and they have big guys. The Bucks over the season had a huge ability of not letting opposing teams score, and win games, also they had a rhythm over the season, which let them be constant in transition. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe helped the team to win and to make important offensive and defensive plays while Giannis was not playing. Another huge reason on why the Bucks’ season was great, was veteran players' experience. Players like Kyle Korver, Brook Lopez, George Hill, and Marvin Williams, all of them are experienced guys who give this talented team a plus, and a push to win games.

The Bubble. 3-5 record to end the regular season. Stop playing due to the pandemic affected every single NBA Team, but what has affected the Bucks? Giannis’ big performances decreasing? Turnovers? I think the Bucks did not move the ball as fast and as effective as they did before the bubble. They were also not the “DEFENSIVE TEAM” they were used to be. In the regular season, before the bubble, the Bucks just turned away the ball in 14.1% of their possessions. In the bubble, that percentage increased by approximately 22%. Another thing that has not helped the Bucks, is the clutch and the pace. In most of the games, the Bucks led all over the game, but they end up losing due to fourth-quarter struggles. In the first three quarters, they ran their opponents with a 22.3 rating, and lose it at the end of it. They blew out many eight or more-point leads in the last five or fewer minutes of the games.

Their run to the Championship begun against the Orlando Magic. They struggle in the first game and lose by twelve points. But came back in the series and won 4-1. They move up to the next round, to face the Miami Heat, which came from a 4-0 shout out a series win against the Indiana Pacers. Struggles started.

Game 1: It began as a close game. Struggles, Giannis failed in the free-throw line. He made just 4 out of 12 free throws. The Heat came strong, Jimmy Butler with a Playoff career-high of 40 points, and a 27-point game from Goran Dragić, to end up defeating the Bucks 115-104.

Game 2: Wild ending game. Khris Middleton tied the game, the Heat called for a time out. 4.3 seconds to play. Jimmy Butler got the ball in the corner of the 3-point line, fouled by Giannis to end the game. Butler with 0.0 seconds to play had the opportunity to end the game from the free-throw line, he made both, and the Heat ended up winning 116-114, 2-0 series.

Game 3: 3-0 lead by the Heat. The Bucks played well in the first three quarters leading by twelve to start the fourth quarter. But the Heat came back with an impressive fourth quarter. They pulled their biggest fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history. It was an amazing 40-13 run by the Heat to win the game 115-100.

Game 4: It was a win or go home game for the Bucks. Giannis got injured and was taken to the locker room with an ankle injury in a layup try covered by Jae Crowder. NO GIANNIS, NO WORRIES. The Bucks forced an Over Time. Khris Middleton played an amazing game, he scored 36 points, including a three-pointer with 6.4 seconds left in overtime to beat the Heat 118-115. The Bucks are still alive.

Game 5: Giannis was ruled out for the game, he was diagnosed with an ankle sprain. The Bucks started well, Khris Middleton started unstoppably, but missed lots of field goals and ended the game with 8 out of 26 field goals, and the Miami Heat pushed an upset beating the best team in the NBA 103-94, to end the series 4-1.

What I think of why these two number one seeds were eliminated early in Playoffs is because of two reasons. First because during the regular season they felt so comfortable dominating their leagues respectively, that in Playoff they were easily defeated. Secondly, their physical level and intensity in the most important games of the season decreased.

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