Bouncebackability (noun, informal). (Especially in sports) the ability to recover quickly from a setback.
It might be an ugly word – or a collection of words forced together – but ‘bouncebackability’ (which is thought to have been coined by British soccer coach Iain Dowie around 10 years ago) is a greatly cherished quality for any sports team. And on Thursday night, AX Armani Exchange Milan showed it possesses bouncebackability in spades.
The context: Milan was heading into its Round 28 away trip to Valencia Basket after losing five successive games. In a further blow to morale, the most recent of those losses had come just two days previously, when Milan allowed Real Madrid to score 32 fourth-quarter points to turn a 9-point deficit into a 5-point victory. Before that, the Italian team had suffered an overtime loss at Zalgiris Kaunas, stretching its winless run on the road to nine games and more than four months.
That sorry sequence had seen Coach Ettore Messina’s men drop out of the playoffs zone following a highly promising start to the campaign and many fans around the continent were starting to write off Milan’s chances of making the playoffs, assuming that Thursday’s trip to Valencia would just provide another nail in the coffin.
But on a thrilling, topsy-turvy night at La Fonteta – which somehow still managed to crackle with atmosphere despite a lack of fans as a safety precaution due to the coronavirus – Milan showed that it has other ideas, and is not yet ready to have its season written off.
It did not look that way, however, when the final seconds of the game ticked around and Alberto Abalde sank a two-pointer to force overtime with just 2 seconds remaining. At that stage, it appeared that Milan was poised to give another unwanted lesson in how to throw away a promising lead – especially when the additional period saw Bojan Dubljevic score 9 fast points to give Valencia a 76-71 advantage with just 1:27 remaining.
Right then, many fans will have been shaking their heads and muttering: "Here we go again. Milan has thrown away another one."
But Messina’s roster is headed by a bunch of gnarly veterans who would not have enjoyed such stellar careers if they allowed themselves to sink into such a defeatist attitude. And at that key moment of the season, Milan’s main men stepped up and showed they know how to bounce back.
First, it was Luis Scola, pulling his team a little closer. Then it was Sergio Rodriguez, scoring a triple, then a two-pointer, then 2 free throws to keep the outcome in the balance despite 4 more points for Abalde. And finally, on the final buzzer, it was Vladimir Micov, delivering one of the most pressured shots of the season – with just 0.2 seconds remaining when the ball left his hands – to hit a victory-yielding three-pointer.
Scola, Rogriguez and Micov. Three veterans, who have won hundreds of games. They don’t give up without a fight, even when all looks lost. They know how to bounce back. And on Thursday night, they may just have rescued Milan’s season.