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On This Date in Sports November 9, 1989: Five Overtimes!

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

A Thursday Night game at the Bradley Center turns into a marathon for the ages, as the Milwaukee Bucks and Seattle Supersonics need five overtimes to decide a winner. With Tony Brown and Jeff Grayer each making several key shots the Bucks are able to win the back and forth battle 155-154. It is the longest game in NBA history in the shot clock era, which began in 1954.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Seattle Supersonics had many similarities as they met in the fourth game of the season each holding a 2-1 record. Both teams had reached the second round but were swept by a participant in the 1989 NBA Finals. Bernie Bickerstaff coached the Sonics, while Del Harris led the Bucks on the bench. As the game began there was a buzz heard from Europe, as there was a party atmosphere in Berlin as people began tearing down the wall, with East Germany deciding to open its borders.

Both teams struggled to score in the first quarter, as the Bucks held a 19-17 lead after the first 12 minutes. In the second quarter, both teams got hot, as the Supersonics outscored Milwaukee 36-31 and held a 53-50 at the half. The Bucks surged again in the third quarter to take an 84-78 lead into the final 12 minutes. Like, the first quarter, Milwaukee went cold in fourth, scoring just 19 points as Seattle had 25, with the score even 103-103 at the end of regulation. Points were at a premium in the first overtime, as both teams managed to score just seven points. In double overtime, the teams each scored ten points, with the game still even 120-120 after 58 minutes. A third overtime saw both teams looking for a second wind, as they each managed to score seven points and were dead even after 63 minutes, 127-127 as Dale Ellis his the game-tying shot with two seconds left. The second wind came in the fourth overtime, as both teams scored on their first four possession. Seattle appeared to be closing in on the win when Ben Coleman of the Bucks was called for a technical foul. The Supersonics took full advantage, with Xavier McDaniel hitting both free throws, while Dale Ellis had a two to build a 136-131 lead with 1:36 left. However, Milwaukee answered with Jack Sikma’s three-pointer, while Tony Brown tied the game with a jumper with 59 seconds left. Brown would give Milwaukee a 138-136 lead with 21 seconds left. However, Ellis tied the game again, at the end of the fourth overtime 138-138 with a jumper with 11 seconds left. Both teams started strong in the fifth overtime, as the game was tied 146-146, before Milwaukee went on a 9-0 run, with Tony Brown delivering a dagger three to make it 155-0-146 with 34 seconds left. However, the Bucks failed to seal the deal and the Sonics scored eight quick points and had a chance to win as McDaniel missed three-point try at the buzzer. McDaniel was fouled on the play and made both free throws at the time a foul on a three-pointer was only worth two shots. Under today’s rules, we could have had a sixth overtime.

In the Bucks 155-154, Dale Ellis of Seattle was the game’s high scorer with 53 points as he played in a record 69 minutes. Ricky Pierce who scored 36 points off the bench led the Bucks, as three players from each team topped 20 points. Joining Ellis on the Supersonics was Xavier McDaniel who had 37 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, while Derrick McKey had 24 points. While Alvin Robertson had 28 and former Sonic, Jack Sikma had 23. Not surprisingly, both teams lost their next games, two days later, with the Bucks losing at home to the Philadelphia 76ers 104-96. Seattle meanwhile continued their road trip and lost to the Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan 109-102.

It was just the third time NBA history that a game went past four overtimes; the two previous marathons of this length had taken place before the invention of the shot clock in 1954. The longest game in NBA history, needed six overtimes, with Indianapolis Olympians beating the Rochester Royals 75-73 on January 6, 1951. A season earlier it was the Syracuse Nationals beating the Anderson Packers in five overtimes on November 24, 1949.