Bucks vs. Heat Game #1 Preview: Let the playoffs begin

USA TODAY Sports

Three years after their last postseason appearance, the Bucks return to the playoffs with the league's most thankless task: beating the Miami Heat. And while no one actually expects that to happen, there's a reason they play the games, right?

2012/2013 NBA Season
Mil_medium
(38-44, 17-24 road)
vs.
(66-16, 37-4 home)
April 21, 2013
American Airlines Arena | Miami, FL
6:o0 CT
TNT / FS North HD | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Brandon Jennings PG Mario Chalmers
Monta Ellis SG Dwyane Wade
Luc Mbah a Moute SF Lebron James
Ersan Ilyasova PF Udonis Haslem
Larry Sanders C Chris Bosh
2012/13 Advanced Stats
94.7 (3rd) Pace 90.7 (23rd)
103.6 (21st) ORtg 112.3 (2nd)
105.2 (12th) DRtg 103.7 (9th)

On the Heat: Hot Hot Hoops | Heat Index

Heat update. Are the Heat playing well? Yeah, kinda.

Despite resting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at times towards the end of the season, the Heat have won an incredible 37 of their last 39 games and enter the postseason as clear favorites to win a second straight NBA championship. Sorry, Bucks.

Offensively, they led the league in shooting accuracy, ranked sixth in free throw rate, and finishing third in three-pointers made and second in three point accuracy. They can beat you with the Big Three on their own, but they can also spread the floor and use the other guys (Ray Allen, Battier, Chalmers, Miller, et al) to outbomb opponents from deep. Pick your poison.

Boards. If Miami has a weakness it's on the boards, where their lack of size helps explain well below average marks on both the offensive (26th) and defensive glass (24th). But not getting offensive rebounds isn't a big deal when you make shots at a higher rate than anyone else in the league, and the Heat's defense excels in spite of their lack of rebounding thanks to an excellent perimeter D led by James and Wade that challenges shots and forces plenty of turnovers. Either way, the Bucks' only hopes of competing offensively will likely rely on their ability to crash the boards and take advantage of second chance opportunities, especially since the presence of James and Wade will require increased minutes from offensively challenged Luc Mbah a Moute and Marquis Daniels.

Matchups. It's expected that Erik Spoelstra will go with a slightly more traditional starting group featuring Udonis Haslem at power forward and James at small forward, which the Bucks likely won't complain about since it allows them to match up on the front line a bit more easily. Miami has also started James at PF and Shane Battier at the three, and expect to see plenty of that throughout the series as well. Either way, the Bucks will try to keep Ersan Ilyasova away from James, a task that's a bit easier to do when Haslem is at the four. While Mbah a Moute and Daniels figure to see James the most defensively, the bigger Ekpe Udoh has also been deployed in that capacity this season. As always, the Bucks will yo-yo help defenders when James and other Heat players work in the post, and as always James is likely to hit a bunch of tough shots regardless.

But while James is the best player on the planet, you could argue that Bosh is just as problematic as far as matchups go. While he shot just 28% from three point range this season and is more reliant than ever on jumpers, Bosh posted a career-best 59.2% true shooting mark thanks in large part to his incredible 53% accuracy on long twos this season. That will demand Larry Sanders roam the perimeter far more than he'd like and give James, Wade and the rest of the Heat players more driving lanes to the basket.

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