Those were some tough losses to endure this past week on the basketball court. We can start with the Raptors loss to the Warriors last night, or reflect on the Cavaliers defeat the night before. Or, we could discuss a loss closer to my home: yes, my rec league team, the Ochos, is now in a fight for its playoff life.
Three games remain in our ten game season, and the Ochos, with a record of 5-2, sit in fourth place (out of nine), right on the bubble. Our first loss came against the first place team, Most Moist (I don’t know who comes up with these names). But our second, well, it happened this past Sunday to the third place team. It was a game we could have — perhaps should have — won. Despite leading for most of the game (and playing without any subs), we managed to fend off the increasing pressure our opponents, Team Cornbeef (Jesus, these names), began to apply. The lead shrunk, and grew, and shrunk again. It was tight.
As we ticked down into the final five minutes, the score was tied. Buckets were traded back and forth. And then in the final minute, the score tied at 36 (on 1-point baskets), I had my pocket picked. My check streaked down the court and laid it in. Time expired. We lost.
In the aftermath, there were a million plays we could have pointed to, moments when could have done one thing instead of another — a bad pass, a terrible shot, a defensive miscue. But there’s no winding back the clock. A team with a cadre of superior players (who wisely went to a short bench down the stretch) beat us fair and square. All you can do is remember the feeling, learn from it... and move on.
On to grander things: what an emotional week for Lucas Nogueira. In games against both Charlotte and New York, Bebe was doing everything we’d hoped for — moving the ball, grabbing rebounds, finishing alley-oops, blocking shots. It was wonderful.
In front of the assembled media on Saturday night, we got the full Bebe gamut. We wanted to know how he did it, how he was so patient given the recent (and not-so-recent) setbacks that have plagued his career. Nogueira held forth:
“I changed a lot of bad habits during the summer because I knew my chance was gonna come, because the cap, it was gonna be hard to keep Biz,” said Nogueira. “So I knew coaches, GMs, they gonna believe in me. So since the season’s over last year, June, I changed a couple of bad habits during the summer and I put in the work to be ready for the opportunity right now.”
Though Nogueira almost stopped himself from getting too honest, he did mention his curbing of going out at night, not drinking alcohol for eight months, and, most toughing, the presence of his newborn daughter. Then, more:
“Like I say, it’s about confidence but not just self confidence, you need somebody to trust and believe in you. And I can tell right now, not only the fans but the whole organization believes in my game. So this is the reason they believe in me to close the quarter, to close the whole game. Honestly, I don’t know how to explain, I feel very, like, emotional. Because I know how much I’ve been through the first two years here, and now I have the chance to play those big minutes and closing the games for me is very special.”
Bebe went on to praise DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and as I mentioned before, Bismack Biyombo for their part in keeping the faith in him. It was a beautiful, uniting moment. I swear there was a tear in Nogueira’s eye as he said some of these things. The Raptors were on a three-game win streak and everyone felt elated.
Fresh off that Saturday night high, when it looked like the Year of Bebe was upon us, and it felt certain (to some) that the way forward was to trade Jonas Valanciunas, we plummet back to Earth.
Nogueira played two quiet games after Saturday, back-to-back loses against the two finest teams in the league. Both games worked to pump the brakes a bit on the Bebe bandwagon. Bebe was held scoreless, and tallied nine rebounds, two assists and a block in those ~20 minutes. There were no Bebe highlight plays you could point to. He tried his best, but superior opponents got the better of him and the Raptors.
And after that honest interview he gave on Saturday? As it turns out, the Brazilian media has been casting around the word “alcoholic” in their description of Bebe now, owing to his admission of an alcohol-free lifestyle these past eight months. Sadly, Nogueira, still icing his ankle after games, wasn’t in an expansive mood post-Warriors loss. And while part of the mood can be attributed to the on-court outcomes and Bebe’s contribution to them (or lack thereof), it was sad to see him looking glum and feeling betrayed. To have your honest words twisted around and used against you, that’s a heartbreaking kind of pain.
Level of High Level
High Level Result: 4 out of 10 — This entire score can be attributed to the legitimately emotional and moving experience of watching Bebe on Saturday night and hearing his words afterwards. Sadly, the world works hard to crush such enthusiasm — two losses, some non-descript stats, and some unkind responses. Here we are.