Heat Head to Milwaukee to Play First-Place Bucks

Who: Miami Heat (35-36) at Milwaukee Bucks (53-19)

What: Playoff Preview

Where: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

When: Friday, March 22, 2019, 8:30 PM EST

Why: To Hold Eighth Place

Injuries: O-Rodney McGruder (Knee), O-Justise Winslow (Thigh)

The Heat have won three straight, and are one game below .500 once again. With a win, they would help the East avoid having a playoff team under .500 while the West has eight strong contenders. They play the Bucks, a team they just lost to last week, and a team that sits in first in the entire NBA in record.

Before:

A Giannis-less Bucks lost to the Cavs on Wednesday, 107-102. They’ve been torched with injuries recently, with Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotić being out for the foreseeable future, and Giannis designated as “probable” for tonight’s game.

The Heat beat the Spurs to snap their nine-game winning streak on Wednesday, 110-105, thanks to strong games from Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters.

These teams have faced three times this season, with the Bucks having the series advantage, 2-1. Their most recent meeting was one week ago, where Miami lost, 113-98. This is the last meeting between these two teams this year.

During:

With Winslow out against San Antonio, Miami did a good job of moving the ball around. They’ve finally managed to become the fun, interesting team everyone thought they could be. A Heat team improving as the season goes on is a surprise to no one, but I’m personally surprised they’re still in the playoff race after an abysmal midseason performance.

The Bucks are really good. Even without Mirotić and Brogdon, they’re still amazing. They have a high level of depth, Mike Budenholzer is one of the NBA’s best coaches, and Giannis Antetokounmpo (right on the first try again) is one of the league’s five best players, and a lock for a top-three MVP selection. They’re good. Like, really good.

Their game is mostly a drive and kick centered around either Giannis or Eric Bledsoe, with shooters spacing the floor around them. Obviously, stopping the three is the most desirable outcome, but players like Giannis and Brooke Lopez can definitely bully on the inside. So, pick your poison. Personally, I’d go with two point attempts rather than threes. The Bucks shoot and make the second most threes per game in the league this season. They’re accurate.

A good way to prevent scoring is to force Giannis to be a shooter. Think pre-2012 LeBron. He’s a deadly passer, a stellar athlete, but the three-pointer still needs some work. Make him work from the midrange or from three, and live with the result.

Offensively, bully inside. Brooke Lopez is pretty old, and if Bam Adebayo can get him in foul trouble early, Budenholzer will have to look to his smaller bench bigs to try and defend Hassan Whiteside. The Bucks are also middle of the pack in opponent three-point percentage, so if anybody can get going from beyond the arc (Waiters, Wade, or Dragic specifically), the one weakness in the Bucks’ defense lies there.

This should be a thoroughly interesting game for a red-hot Miami team. They started wonderfully in the first half of their previous game against the Bucks, but the second half left much to be desired. Let’s see how Spoelstra and company adjust for this one.

After:

Final score prediction: 118-102 Bucks

The Bucks face the Cavs again on Sunday, and look to actually win this time.

The Heat play the division-rival Wizards tomorrow on the second night of a back-to-back, in Washington.

Playoff Watch:

Miami is running away with the eight seed. They’re 1.5 games ahead of Orlando, and 2 games ahead of Charlotte. Those don’t seem like much, but when teams have played between 72-74 games of an 82 game season, it really seems like the clock is ticking. The focus is to potentially overtake the Nets for the seven seed. The Nets are just one game ahead of Miami, and they face the Lakers tonight. The Pistons are 2.0 games ahead, but they have a tough stretch. Detroit plays Portland, Golden State, and Denver in their next three games.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *