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The Miami Heat host the Milwaukee Bucks for the first time in their first-round series just a few days after the Bucks lodged a 138-122 win.
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The Bucks responded to a Game One defeat on their home floor with a blowout victory in Game Two. They led the visitors at halftime 81-55 thanks to a 46-point second quarter and were able to coast to the finish line despite being without the two-time MVP, Giannis.
The Heat have shockingly outperformed their season standard from beyond the three-point line, which was their biggest concern heading into the series and one that was compounded with the loss of Herro—but no amount of three-point marksmanship would ever be enough to slow down a team that made 25 triples, which is exactly what the Bucks did.
The final result was not just important from the overall standings perspective, but it put a halt to all of the momentum the Heat incurred with their Game One win. They now head back to South Beach, where their home record (27-14) was virtually the same as the Bucks’ road record (26-15).
Brook Lopez, Jrue Holiday, and Pat Connaughton scored at least 22 points in the Bucks’ winning effort, and four other players scored at least 13—a total team performance. Khris Middleton could not follow up his stellar Game One with the same level of efficiency but scored 16 to go with seven assists and six rebounds as he continues to return closer to his pre-injury self.
On the losing side, Jimmy Butler had a team-high 25 points in 28 minutes but was also a team-worst -31 in overall plus/minus. Duncan Robinson and Victor Oladipo impressed after falling out of favor in the regular season and could have earned themselves some minutes moving forward, but only if the defense can tighten up around them.
The 25 threes Milwaukee made tied an all-time playoff record and will most likely not happen again in this postseason. But what their Game Two performance showed is that they are a sleeping giant that is deep and can get as hot as anyone. They are obviously better with Giannis, but they can win this series without him.
Two games and two very different performances thus far. The Heat jumped on the Bucks in Game One, especially once Giannis exited with an injury in the first quarter, and the total opposite happened in Game Two. Game Three should be somewhat of a middle ground.
The Bucks have attempted far more threes per game and have made it clear they want to stretch Miami’s defense out and mitigate the impact of their physicality. Even with Bam Adebayo’s versatility, he is better at defending the interior, which he hasn’t been able to do a ton of in this series.
There is optimism that Giannis returns for Game Three, although his status has not been confirmed at the time of writing. With him back in the lineup, the Heat will have serious trouble finding any success on the inside and will need to continue to knock down threes—unfortunately for them, they were one of the worst teams at doing just that in the regular season.
The Bucks will win Game Three if they continue to play with energy and trust one another. They cannot allow the game to boil down to a one-on-one between Butler and one of their stars because Butler is one of the best solo playoff performers in the league. Making long-range shots always helps and will do so even more if Giannis comes back into the fold.
The Heat will win Game Three if they can force the Bucks into having an off-shooting night with their defense. But while Heat teams of years past could turn it on defensively whenever they wanted, this Miami team ranked 21st in defensive rating post-All-Star break and has given up an average of 127.5 points per game in this series. They cannot continue to try to be the first team to hit 120 points against the Bucks, or else they’re playing right into their hands.
Expect a tough battle back at the Heat’s home arena and one that ends with far fewer total points scored. Again, it’s tough to make a sure-fire prediction until Giannis’ status is unveiled, but assuming he plays, the best bet is for the Bucks to win a close game. An alternate spread could provide greater comfort and value balled into one, and the under is the pick of the major markets.
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Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself on delivering breaking news and insightful analyses of the industry. Grant graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 and is feverishly pursuing his ambitions in the sports betting field.
In his free time, Grant can be found passionately watching sports, doing a workout, or searching for adventure with his friends.More info on Grant Mitchell
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