It stinks when one moment of "youthful exuberance" takes away from an otherwise spectacular individual and team performance.
The Magic were well on their way to a 111-103 win over the Bucks in overtime that was capped off by a spectacular five-point comeback in the final 37 seconds and a Tobias Harris game-tying 3-pointer with 0.5 second left when all seemed lost. Harris even had a game-winning free throw after a foolish foul from Marquis Daniels (Harris apologized on Fox Sports Florida for missing the free throw and not sending everyone home early).
So when Harris picked up his 19th rebound of the game and Milwaukee, Harris expected to get fouled. He raced forward from the backcourt. When no one stepped up to stop him or foul him, Harris had a free path to the basket.
Typically in these situations, the play is to simply dribble out the clock and end the game. Harris though went for it in the heat of the moment. He dunked it for his 30th point and drew a technical foul when he started jawing with Mike Dunleavy. The Bucks, in the moment at least, seemed to take offense to the move.
In the long run, this play was a minor thing. What it turned into was a learning lesson that everyone seemed to handle well in the aftermath. Harris apologized for it after the game if anyone was offended:
If anybody thought that was disrespectful, that's not the type of player that I am. You live and you learn from it. In the future, I wouldn't have done that, after having that experience and knowing the consequences of it.
Jacque Vaughn said after the game that he understood the youthful exuberance of the moment, but he talked to Harris about how to handle such a situation in the future. That would decidedly not be going for the dunk with the game over.
There was definitely a lot of subtext to the game with Harris playing against his former team. There was definitely frustration from Harris — and most vocally Beno Udrih — with the Bucks and the playing time Scott Skiles and James Boylan were handing out.
Harris started the year in the rotation for Milwaukee thanks to an injury to Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. However, Harris fell out of favor for one reason or another — possibly Scott Skiles' penchant to demand a higher level of defense that Mbah a Moute could better provide. Udrih was frustrated with the seeming lack of playing time after he signed with Milwaukee following his best year in Sacramento.
With them it seemed to be a numbers game. Harris said following the win over Washington on March 29 that he was just thankful to have the opportunity Orlando was giving him:
"I could be still in Milwaukee sitting on the sideline and just wondering what if I was healthier," Harris said. "I am definitely blessed to be here in this situation. I thank people in the organization on a daily basis just for having me here. It might get old, but they don’t know how grateful I am for this position."
Opportunity has been the biggest difference the Magic have given Harris.
It probably was not really personal what Harris did. But it was definitely emotional and it meant something — it had to, right? — to have that kind of a performance against his former team, a team that he just could not get off the bench for. Fan certainly felt it to be an exclamation point to a memorable home victory in a frustrating season.
Chalk this up as another learning experience and a chance to grow. At least finally it came in a win.