The Miami Heat are a scary team to the people of Milwaukee. If you recall, the Heat held the Bucks to just eight points in the first quarter of a loss the last time Milwaukee played in Miami earlier this season. Not to mention the Bucks currently hold the #1 seed while Miami sits in the #8 spot which could mean a first round playoff matchup in a few weeks. With a lot on the line in terms of standings and team morale, the Bucks took the cake by overcoming a 23-point deficit to win by 15, something that’s NEVER been done before.
Miami came out hot, making their first five shots of the game including three three-pointers. Milwaukee’s defense wasn’t lacking, Miami was just hitting tough shots. However, Coach Bud took a timeout four minutes into the firs quarter after a wide open alley-oop for the Heat put the Bucks down 15-6. Miami has a history this season of shutting down teams, more specifically the Bucks in the first quarter. Understandably, Bud wasn’t happy with the start and needed to make adjustments to the expected defensive strategy from the Heat to smother Giannis.
Out of the timeout, Brook Lopez hit a tough shot in the lane to tie up Milwaukee’s first quarter point total from the two team’s previous meeting in Miami at eight points. The Heat offense kept on rolling and they had twenty points less than halfway through the quarter. George Hill entered the game midway through the first quarter to try and add some defense to the struggling Bucks. Nothing changed and the Heat held a 25-8 lead with five minutes remaining in the quarter. Miami was 10-16 from the field and a perfect 5-5 from deep in the first seven minutes of the game.
The Heat run extended to 17-4 in the next two minutes and Milwaukee couldn’t seem to find any sort of rhythm on offense. To top it off, Dwayne Wade made Pat Connaughton look like he should be playing in the high school state tournament this weekend with a slick crossover move for an easy layup. Miami continued to look like the Globe Trotters and make the Bucks look silly in the first quarter. The Heat held a 37-19 lead after twelve minutes due to 60%/75% splits and Milwaukee’s 35%/11% splits. Not a proud quarter for Coach Bud by any means.
The Bucks seemed more aggressive in the second quarter but regardless Miami was hitting anything and everything. Bud called a timeout three minutes in to yell at Giannis for his lack of defense on the previous possession. Still down nineteen, Milwaukee was making no progress and they looked defeated already. Too add to the struggle, Malcolm Brogdon was announced as out for the night due to unexpected right heel soreness. That’s a huge loss for the Bucks in a game they are already struggling in.
Giannis displayed more energy out of the break and it affected the whole roster. Eric Bledsoe began to attack with more confidence and Khris Middleton started to find shots more frequently for himself. The lead was slowly diminishing after Miami had led by as much as 23. Khris got it down to thirteen with six minutes remaining in the first half to force a timeout from Erik Spoelstra to try and replicate their first quarter defense.
Milwaukee was starting to look like their old selves except for one part. They couldn’t stop making random terrible decisions. The type of decisions we haven’t seen them make all season were happening over and over. Allowing offensive rebounds and throwing unbelievably poor passes limited them in a big way at the end of the first half. The Bucks took a 62-42 deficit into the locker room. The Heat were still shooting an incredible 52%/50% in comparison to the Bucks horrendous 41%/7%. Giannis and Khris were the only bright spots for Milwaukee with combined 26 points in the first two quarters. Justice Winslow was up to 20 points on 8-12 shooting and 3-5 from three to lead the Heat.
Nikola Mirotic joined the starters in Brogdon’s absence to start the second half. His three a minute and a half into the third quarter cut the deficit to fifteen. Out of a Heat timeout, Giannis rejected Winslow at the rim which led to a deep two from Middleton. The momentum was starting to shift in Milwaukee’s favor. A corner three from Middleton with seven minutes remaining in the third cut the deficit to single-digits for the first time in what seemed like forever. After a pair of free throws from Khris, Miami called a timeout with six minutes left in the third.
A combination of missed free throws and continued poor decisions passing, Milwaukee found themselves down single-digits but couldn’t close the remaining gap. Miami wasn’t shooting particularly well anymore and the Bucks were finding their spots but were converting on their opportunities at a below-average rate. D.J. Wilson saw the floor for the first time in the game with four minutes left in the quarter as a replacement for Brook Lopez who wasn’t having much of an impact on the offensive side. Milwaukee closed the quarter with much better defense in the paint and took better shots to make the fourth quarter interesting, down 80-79 behind a 37-18 third quarter.
Wilson got his first shot of the final period to go and the Bucks took their first lead since the first quarter. After a Mirotic three and a pair from Bledsoe, Milwaukee had their largest lead of the night at five with nine minutes remaining. Connaughton suddenly caught fire and elevated the Bucks’ options to force another timeout from Spoelstra to try and smooth out this new wrinkle. A minute later, Milwaukee pushed their lead to double-digits.
After averaging just 10.5 points per game in the first two meetings with the Miami Heat, Giannis decided that they wouldn’t stop him in this one. Giannis was relentless in the paint, drawing multiple and ones down the stretch to get himself over thirty points. He capped off the game with a no-look pass over his head to Bledsoe in the post and that was pretty much the end for Miami. After being down by as much as 23, the Bucks took the season series lead with a 113-98.
Giannis was in full MVP form with 33/16/9, 2 blocks, and 3 steals.
Middleton was a great number two option with 21/5/8 on 8-16 from the field.
Bledsoe was close behind with 17/3/5 on 6-12 shooting.
Seven Heat players reached double-digit scoring led by Winslow with 20, all coming in the first half. Milwaukee outshot Miami from the field at 48% to 41% and identical from three at 36.4% after a lopsided first half in favor of the Heat.
The start of the game was a thing of nightmares for Milwaukee fans. Knowing that Miami is a very likely first round matchup for the Bucks, fans were expecting a statement to be made from Giannis and the Bucks that they wouldn’t let the Heat get the best of them on defense for the second straight time on the road. The first half was far from that and Miami outscored Milwaukee 37-19. Taking a 20 point deficit into half, worry set in and Coach Bud was tasked with finding a solution to stop the current 8-seed Heat. He found one, and a lot of it had to do with three point shooting. In the first half, Milwaukee shot 1-14 from deep. The second half, they shot 11-18. Total opposite sides of the spectrum. Outside shooting combined with much more aggressive defense led to the 15 point lead. This is, in fact, the first time in NBA history a team was down 20 or more at half and proceeded to win by at least 15. The 2018-2019 Milwaukee Bucks, now a league best 52-17.
The Bucks have a day off before their next game Sunday against the 76ers at 2:30 p.m.
***GONE FOR SPRING BREAK. RETURNING MARCH 25TH.