Bucks

3 Heat Strengths Bucks Must Shut Down

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Usually, the one vs. four/five matchup presents another effortless series for a top seed. However, the Miami Heat took a first-ever 2-0 lead over the one seed, Milwaukee. The series isn’t over, but the Bucks need to win four of the next five. If they want to return to the glamorous East Finals, they must direct attention to three crucial Heat strengths.

1. Three-point shooting

In the deflating game two, Miami hit 17 threes to the Bucks’ seven. That’s a 30-point difference in a two-point game! Mike Budenholzer dares opponents to shoot outside while Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez guard the paint. Every bubble opponent (except for the lowly Wizards), however, adapted to demolish Milwaukee with barrages. Note how Eric Bledsoe thrice couldn’t get to Goran Dragić on time, putting the Bucks in difficulty early.

Offensively, the Bucks too often settle for their first open look down the court, leading to bricked, wasted possessions. Meanwhile, Giannis is overly aggressive driving through walls, at one point costing coach Bud his challenge on a too-close call. When Giannis kicks it out smartly, his teammates often can’t deliver. It’s too late to shred Bud’s permissive defensive, but the system isn’t inherently flawed. Milwaukee just needs to focus more intently on making shots difficult.

2. Fast Starts

It is always difficult to battle back from way behind in the playoffs. Thankfully, the Heat seem to lose their concentration in the second half. Milwaukee played brilliantly in the last minute Wednesday, including a wicked double-team, steal and layup. (Jimmy Butler stepped out of bounds, yes, but this worked against the Bucks by preventing an inevitable Khris Middleton clutch three.)

Analyzing the last play, Bucks Lead understands if fans question the last foul call. However, why was Giannis guarding Butler so closely on a shot with almost no chance? The officials were calling fouls much too closely, and the momentary lapse ended the game.

Still, there’s very little to complain about during the final minute. Well done. The most significant point is: why did Milwaukee put itself in such a pickle to begin with? Miami noticeably played with more passion throughout most of the first half. Milwaukee trailed for too much of the two second-halves in the Heat series, necessitating unlikely comebacks. Instead of cursing out the not-quite-perfect play by stars, Milwaukee must maintain intensity for 48 minutes.

3. Professionalism

Erik Spoelstra built a team intensely committed to winning a championship without egotism. Granted, leader Butler sometimes slips with interviews. However, even media mistakes reflect a rugged culture perfectly tailored for a tense Eastern Conference playoffs. In thoughtful comments after Miami’s Indiana sweep, he observed: “this group works incredibly hard together through thick and thin, so it’s a real pleasure to be able to compete with these guys.” Butler also said, “we’re confident; I don’t want us to ever get comfortable. I want us to keep getting better every single day, every single possession, and I think we’re capable of doing that.”

The Bucks, by contrast, have looked dazed throughout the NBA bubble, and Miami appears a half-step faster. Although dominant during long stretches, the Bucks’ occasional sloppiness results in gimme points unforgivable in one-possession games.

The Heat aren’t about to blink or foolishly collapse. The Bucks must be disciplined defensively, refuse to concede any part of the game, and match Miami’s unquestionable passion for success. Milwaukee bested opponents 60 times this season, most in the NBA, so the squad can defeat any foe. However, nothing but their best effort will cool off an opponent determined to cruelly derailing the Giannis Antetokounmpo locomotive, a heartbreaking three rounds short of championship glory.

Stats courtesy bucks.com

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About Jeffrey Newholm

"Jammin Jeff" Newholm had been a basketball fanatic since his high school days, and remained a casual fan as a student in Whitewater. Wishing to check in as an active participant, he also completed a writing certificate program at UWM. He loves seeing Bucks games more than any other activity in hometown Milwaukee and especially screaming really really loudly to get someone to miss a free throw. Twitter: @JeffreyNewholm

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