Heat vs. Bucks Game #3 Preview: Desperation kicks in as Milwaukee returns home

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, the Bucks return home for game three down 2-0 to the all-conquering Heat. And while no one is expecting the Bucks to make this series particularly competitive, a win in game three could at least make the Heat sweat.

Eastern Conference Playoffs First Round, Heat lead 2-0
Mil_medium
(38-44, 21-20 home)
vs.
(66-16, 29-12 road)
April 25, 2013
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
6:00 CT
TNT / FS Wisconsin 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

Homestand. No one expects the Bucks to win this series, and most don't expect the Bucks to even win a game. Certainly no one expected the Bucks to steal games one or two in Miami, but it will be a bit of a different story tonight as the series shifts to Milwaukee. After all, back in December the Bucks managed to beat the Heat by 19 in Milwaukee, and even the defending champs are bound to slip up from time to time...at least in theory.

The Bucks will certainly be hoping for a boisterous crowd at the BC to help them get over the hump, though it's hardly been a memorable year on that front. Local support for the Bucks had been fairly tepid even before the Tobias Harris trade and subsequent late season slump--two decades of mediocrity will do that to you--and those two events have put many over the edge with the Bucks' win now (?) ambitions. That disillusionment aside, I'm hoping fans will put in a good showing tonight if only because guys like Larry Sanders deserve the support. And while Milwaukee isn't much of a pro basketball town right now, that will have to change at some point soon(ish) if we want NBA basketball to be around for the long haul (much more on that during the offseason).

Swag twins. Charles Gardner reports that Jim Boylan expects his guards to bounce back tonight from awful shooting nights on Tuesday, though if we're being honest with ourselves we know nothing can be counted on when it comes to either Monta Ellis or Brandon Jennings. They could be great, they could be terrible. Either way, basic logic would suggest that the Bucks need them to perform reasonably well against a foe of the Heat's caliber, though game one underscored that the Bucks need other guys to contribute, too. And if nothing else, game two saw both guys trying to move the ball more even if they weren't directly creating easy shots for others (silver linings?).

"The main strength of our team is the quickness in our backcourt, the ball movement and making that extra pass," Boylan said. "I think if we do that, shots are going to come for everybody.

"We did that quite a bit (Tuesday) with finding Ersan, finding Larry at the rim. If we continue to do that, those balls are going to circulate around and we're going to find Brandon for open shots.

"When you look at the game (Tuesday), Brandon had a lot of good shots. Shots he shoots at a high percentage and they didn't go in; I'm sure they'll go in (Thursday)."

As usual, Bucks.com has a bunch of interviews looking forward to game three.

Heat indexed. Two areas where the Bucks did well in game two: defending LeBron James (ie mission: impossible) and Chris Bosh. Our SBN Heat sister site Hot Hot Hoops has a great breakdown of Luc Mbah a Moute's individual possessions against LeBron, with the punchline being that Mbah a Moute might have as good a chance as anyone at marking LBJ one-one-one...but it's still going to take a team effort to slow down the-soon-to-be four-time MVP. No arguments there, especially when you consider how effortlessly James put up a monster stat line in game one.

So while defending LeBron capably might start with matching him against a good one-on-one defender, that's only the first step. While the Bucks are generally very consistent in their defensive approach (minimal switching, yo-yoing double teams from guards), they justifiably tried to give LeBron some different looks in game two, particularly when James was in the post. Yo-yoing guards from the perimeter, overloading the strong side with Ilyasova or Henson creeping over from the other side of the paint, and also offering the occasional quick double-team (I only noticed one, which immediately set up a Shane Battier three) were three of the obvious ones. None of them will work over and over, but predictability is probably the worst approach you can use against a player as heady and talented as LeBron.

Oh, and having a premier shot-blocker to bother LeBron at the rim doesn't hurt either. In game one, the Heat frustrated Sanders by pulling Chris Bosh into the corner, which from a spacing standpoint is rather problematic. It was bad enough that Bosh hit a season high three triples, but on top of that his presence outside meant Sanders had a much tougher time getting back to protect the hoop; LeBron made 8/9 at the cup and the rest is history. Fast forward to game two, where Jim Boylan opted to switch Sanders onto Udonis Haslem early and it helped Larry force a number of misses the Heat otherwise convert. Miami also didn't take advantage of the Bosh/Ilyasova matchup, as Ersan got going early and the Heat never really went at him with the versatile Bosh. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Heat make a more concerted effort to get Bosh the ball early on tonight, though on the bright side at least LeBron and Bosh can't both be posting up at the same time, right?

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