We've got another heavyweight matchup set in the Eastern Conference.
After eliminating the Orlando Magic in five games, the Milwaukee Bucks have earned a second-round date with the Miami Heat, who will be well-rested after a first-round sweep of the Indiana Pacers.
MORE: Giannis is on a mission | Inside the Heat's quietly scary duo
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All times Eastern.
- Game 1 - Monday, Aug. 31, 6:30 p.m
- Game 2 - Wednesday, Sept. 2 (TBD)
- Game 3 - Friday, Sept. 4 (TBD)
- Game 4 - Sunday, Sept. 6 (TBD)
- Game 5 (if necessary) - Tuesday, Sept. 8 (TBD)
- Game 6 (if necessary) - Thursday, Sept. 10 (TBD)
- Game 7 (if necessary) - Saturday, Sept. 12 (TBD)
Result: Heat won 2-1
Best game: Oct. 26, 2019 - Heat 131, Bucks 126 (OT)
Best performance: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Oct. 26, 2019) - 29 points (12-21 FG), 17 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks
The regular-season series between these two teams was a fun one.
In what was the second game of the season for both teams, Miami travelled to Fiserv Forum to take on Milwaukee in late October.
Despite being without Jimmy Butler, who had yet to debut with his new team, the Heat rallied from 21 down to earn a gutsy 131-126 win over the Bucks thanks in large part to the play of Goran Dragic (25 points, eight assists, six rebounds) and Bam Adebayo (19 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists).
#TheDragon 🐉 was just what the squad needed off the bench last night.@Goran_Dragic dropped a team high 25 points on the Bucks to go along with 8 assists and 6 rebounds.- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) October 27, 2019
🔥🎥 #HEATHighlights pic.twitter.com/8WBSRSvZhW
It was a balanced effort for Miami, as nine players scored eight or more points and seven finished in double figures.
While Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with a monster stat line of 29 points, 17 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and two blocks, he committed eight turnovers and fouled out of the game. Khris Middleton was the team's second-leading scorer with 25 points (on 7-for-16 shooting).
The second meeting was a dominant showing from Miami.
At full strength, the Heat earned a 105-89 win over the Bucks, holding Giannis to just 13 points (on 6-for-18 shooting). As a team, Milwaukee shot just 35-for-86 (40.7%) from the field and 7-for-34 (20.6%) from deep.
Again, it was a balanced attack for Miami, as Butler and Jae Crowder led the way with 18 points apiece while Dragic (15), Adebayo (14), Kendrick Nunn (13) and Kelly Olynyk (11) each finished in double figures and the team shot 18-for-37 (43.7%) from deep.
#99 made some serious boss moves during last night's victory over the Bucks! @CJC9BOSS finished with 18pts, 4rebs, 4asts. 🔥🎥 #HEATHighlights pic.twitter.com/oJuVdirgtY- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 3, 2020
Miami and Milwaukee most recently met on Aug. 6 during the season restart and it was by far the most … interesting meeting.
The Heat were again without Butler but managed to build a 23-point lead in the first half as it appeared they would cruise to a regular-season series sweep over the East's top seed.
That wasn't exactly the case.
Behind the All-Star duo of Antetokounmpo and Middleton, the Bucks chipped away, briefly taking a lead in the third quarter before the Heat would regain control. That is, until the final five minutes of the game.
No stopping this man.- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) August 7, 2020
33 PTS | 12 REB | 4 AST | 1 BLK pic.twitter.com/RlfiKJ5i9j
After trailing 111-110, Milwaukee scored 19 unanswered points before earning a 130-116 win over Miami.
Antetokounmpo and Middleton scored 33 points apiece, combining for 66 points on 22-for-31 shooting, while the Heat were led by 21 points from Duncan Robinson, who shot 5-for-9 from deep.
Key Storyline: Are the Heat built to take the Bucks down?
You could argue that no team played Milwaukee better than Miami this season. As such, many view the Heat as being fit to defeat the Bucks in a seven-game series.
First things first, pretty much all of what Milwaukee does starts and finishes with Giannis.
As our Scott Rafferty explored during the restart, the Heat have the ability to make things difficult for Antetokounmpo because of the physicality and defensive ability of Bam Adebayo. Schematically, Miami is sound defensively, as evidenced by its defensive efforts in the first round of the postseason.
It was the regular season, but any team that is able to cause Giannis to commit six turnovers or shoot 6-for-18 from the field has an effective game plan.
From a talent standpoint, the Heat have an All-Star duo in Adebayo and Butler to counter the Bucks' duo of Antetokounmpo and Middleton. Depth-wise, Miami enjoyed stellar play from Dragic in the first round as well as contributions from Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson.
Can Miami's role players outplay those of Milwaukee? They're certainly capable.
The biggest part of the blueprint to defeat the Bucks is perimeter shooting. Milwaukee's defence doesn't just concede wide-open 3s but it did allow the most 3-point attempts per game of all teams during the regular season.
And the Heat have shooters.
In Miami's opening-round sweep, it shot 39.1% from deep as a team, led by Dragic and Robinson, who each hit three triples per game. Crowder and Herro averaged two makes per game and after shooting poorly all season, Butler even found his 3-point shooting stroke.
COLD BLOODED pic.twitter.com/XVXxODykQs- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) August 18, 2020
In their three-game regular-season series against the Bucks, the Heat knocked down 18.3 triples per game at a 43.3% clip. Can they replicate that over the course of a seven-game series?
A blueprint of slowing down Giannis, having the better supporting cast and knocking down 3s is much easier said than done but if any team is capable of doing so, the Heat certainly have the ingredients.
Players to Watch
We only saw him play against the Bucks once this season but it's no coincidence that the game was a dominant showing from the Heat.
18pts, 7asts and 6rebs for @JimmyButler in Monday night's dub over the Milwaukee Bucks. 🔥🎥 #HEATHighlights- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 3, 2020
Which bucket was your fave? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/fK6MFmCD9C
Now, Butler is in full-fledged playoff mode and believes this team is equipped to win a title this year. As I mentioned above, he found his 3-point stroke in the first round and looked to be even more intense since the postseason started.
Considering the fire that he plays with, that's saying something. Expect him to take the intensity up another notch as he looks to lead this team past a title favourite.
Speaking of hitting another gear, Dragic has been doing just that since the NBA restart began.
In the opening round, Dragic averaged 22.8 points, 5.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 48.0% from the field and 41.4% from beyond the arc. Dragic will be going head-to-head with a familiar face in his former teammate, Eric Bledsoe, which is a matchup to keep an eye on.
Should Dragic pick up where he left off to end the opening round, Miami will have a big advantage at the point guard position.
For Middleton, the first two games of the postseason were forgettable, to say the least.
After scoring just 14 points (on 4-for-12 shooting) in Milwaukee's Game 1 loss, the All-Star forward scored just two points (on 1-for-8 shooting) in 31 minutes of action in the team's Game 2 win.
To close the series, Middleton averaged 19.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists while shooting 40.3% from the field and 45.4% from the field. While he bounced back from his abysmal start, Middleton could still be much better.
If he were to regress, things become very very difficult for the Bucks.
Picks and Predictions
Gilbert McGregor: Bucks in seven
Scott Rafferty: Bucks in six
Kyle Irving: Bucks in seven
Yash Matange: Heat in seven
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