It’s only game two of the season, but the Milwaukee Bucks have proven for the second straight game that they have a lot to work to do after losing to the Miami Heat, 131-126, in a very winnable game.
For the first 24 minutes, everything went right for Milwaukee in their home-opener. They shot 54% from the field and 47% from deep, numbers that will bury any opposing squad. Kyle Korver put on a show for his new home crowd, hitting four of his seven attempts from behind the arc and Khris Middleton started the game 4-4 with three straight threes. It was the performance we expected from the Bucks against a young Miami team without their star, Jimmy Butler.
But, basketball is a 48-minute game. While that helped get the Bucks their first win of the season over Houston on Thursday, it was their demise on Saturday. After leading by as much as 21 points in the third quarter, the Bucks went ice cold from deep (3-24) and the defense was a mess, allowing floaters and open threes like it was shooting practice.
Somehow, someway, Milwaukee pushed the game into overtime despite going down nine with three and a half minutes to play and having a plethora of mishaps in crunch time. Ultimately, the Heat’s poor shooting from the free throw line kept Milwaukee within two until a final second three from Khris air-balled and Giannis was underneath to tip in the buzzer-beater to force overtime.
Miami scored 39 points in the fourth quarter, but nevertheless Milwaukee forced an overtime period where it was anyone’s game. These are the situations that championship teams take advantage of and steal the win in a game they hadn’t played well.
Obviously, the Bucks couldn’t pull through. Giannis fouled out on an off-ball offensive foul with 2:31 left and while that wasn’t an issue Thursday, it was the end for the Bucks in Milwaukee. They only mustered five points in the extra period, two from Giannis and three FTs from Khris, and couldn’t take advantage of even more missed FTs from the Heat.
A tale of two halves. The Bucks looked like the best team in the league in the first and a young, developing team without chemistry in the second. One thing the Bucks need to improve on significantly in the short term is limiting the fouls. Khris Middleton said after the game, “It’s been terrible. We gotta do a better job playing without fouling. That’s everybody.”
Giannis was largely Giannis. He finished with 29/17/9 in 37 minutes and was the facilitator of the offense all night long. But he also had eight turnovers, a number that makes me cringe just looking at it. When a team relies on a guy as heavily as Milwaukee does on Giannis, eight turnovers will put you in the negative on fast break points and that’s what it did tonight. Still, Giannis was the reason Milwaukee really scored at all down the stretch.
It’s just the second game of the season and we saw some improvements from the Bucks between Thursday and Saturday. Even though it’s an 82-game season, every game counts in the end and Milwaukee will need to quickly correct their issues to set themselves up for home court come playoff time.
Milwaukee will return to the hardwood on Monday to play the Cleveland Cavaliers at Fiserv Forum. Tip is at 7:00 p.m.