The Milwaukee Bucks came into the game winners of six of their last nine games against the Heat in Miami, but on Wednesday night it sure looked like Miami forgot how two of the last three meetings unfolded. An 18-point Heat lead evaporated by the end of the half, and then the Bucks played from the front a good portion of the second half. Unfortunately, Milwaukee never pulled away and eventually LeBron James and company reeled the Bucks back in and closed the deal in overtime.
The Bucks actually opened the game with more intensity than their counterparts, but that energy didn't exactly translate to quality defense. Miami converted on seven of their first 10 shots and scored 14 of their first 17 points in the painted area. In related news, Samuel Dalembert continues to underwhelm me with his interior defense.
Tobias Harris flashed some of his potential in the opening minutes, as he scored the first seven points for the Bucks thanks to some nifty off-ball cuts and a smooth corner three. He finished with 11 points and six rebounds, but he didn't play a single minute in the fourth quarter because Mike Dunleavy, Ekpe Udoh and John Henson presented better matchups and advantages.
Ersan Ilyasova has cemented his status as the saddest man in the NBA. He started 1-for-5 from the field, but missed all four jumpers and airballed his only three-point attempt. Chris Bosh threw down a dunk in his face just for good measure, and Ersan made sure to avoid grabbing even a single rebound until the third quarter. It’s...bad.
I generally institute a moratorium on combining the shooting stats for Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, and their combined 0-for-9 start from the field certainly didn't do anything to change my mind about that policy. To be fair the Heat might have been playing with an extra man on defense – they were everywhere, and Monta Ellis especially had a tough time finding an angle to get to the rim as Heat defenders smothered him on pick-and-roll and basically ignored the roll/pop man.
When the smoke cleared after the first 12 min. of action, Miami held a (seemingly) commanding 14-point lead. They outscored the Bucks just using their points in the paint (16), and improbably posted a higher point total (29) than the Bucks did a shooting percentage (6-24 FGs, 25%).
Mike Dunleavy didn’t have his normal rhythm (5/13 FGs, 1-7 3PT, 12 points) and the traditional Bench Mob never really saved the day, but Brandon Jennings shared some time with the reserves and eventually he hit his stride by nailing 4-of-5 shots, dishing two assists to Udrih and swiping two steals in the second quarter.
Larry Sanders celebrated his 24th birthday in a way only Larry Sanders can. He logged five minutes of action, picked up three fouls, and forced officials to eject him from the contest after he slammed the ball off the glass and kept jawing at the refs in the wake of the third foul call. As Frank Madden noted in the game thread: "Classic Larry."
This was clearly all part of Larry Sanders' plan. He's now back in the locker room, planning to steal the Declaration of Independence.— Frank Madden (@brewhoop) November 22, 2012
While Sanders schemed to steal national artifacts, his teammates schemed to steal the game from the defending NBA champions. A 20-5 run was punctuated by (1) a slick no-look, between-the-legs pass from Dalembert to Ellis for the dunk, and (2) the first career three-point make of Samuel Dalembert’s 11-year NBA career on a shot at the end of the second quarter. Brandon Jennings simultaneously shifted into attack mode and drained three quick baskets – including an off-balance 18-footer from the baseline (why not, right?). Suddenly Milwaukee trailed by only two at the half.
With Sanders out and Ilyasova something less than present, John Henson filled the void with a sparkling performance that reminded everyone why they felt Milwaukee committed theft on draft night. An early corner three from the rookie had me scratching my head, but everything else went extremely well. Henson set career-highs in both points and rebounds, as he scored 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting and snatched a whopping 18 rebounds (including eight offensive boards). Excellent off-ball movement primed Henson for a series of emphatic dunks and a bevy of rebound opportunities over his 27 minutes on the floor.
The No. 14 pick from the 2012 NBA Draft had been an honorary member of the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Men prior to tonight, but this performance put his name on the marquee for the time being. If Ersan needs a week or three to get his mind right, Henson looked ready and willing to steal his minutes.
Jennings kept his Swag Mode activated coming out of the locker room, and the fast pace of action helped him avoid the half-court sets where he usually struggles. Eric Spoelstra called a quick timeout early in the third and clearly instructed his team to drape Jennings with two defenders on pick-and-roll chances (similar to what they did with Ellis), so when the game did shift to half-court ball Jennings wasn’t quite as impactful (5-17 FGs after intermission).
Things like a running and-one from Dunleavy and a clumsy jump hook from Ekpe Udoh helped the Bucks play from the front down the stretch, but a surge from the defending champs pushed the game to a 98-98 tie. Monta Ellis got his chance to seal the victory for the Bucks on the team’s final possession of regulation, but he drifted into an isolation look on the right wing and felt content to launch a contested 20-foot jumper over Wade. He missed badly enough for John Henson to snare the rebound, but the rookie didn't quite know how much time was left on the clock and he executed his own awful attempt that missed the rim by three feet.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh refused to go quietly into the night. The rest of the team combined to go 10-for-30 from the field, but Miami’s dynamic trio produced more than enough points on their own. James, Wade and Bosh each scored 20+ points, and in overtime they outscored the Bucks 10-8 on their own. Bosh posted the best numbers (24 points on 9-of-14 shooting, 18 rebounds) and Wade made some of the most exciting plays, but LeBron (28 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists) exerted the largest force on the game.
Wade got the nod on the final possession of regulation, but Ellis managed to block his shot from behind as he floated towards the baseline for a fade away, so the contest moved to overtime.
Four empty OT trips for Milwaukee put them in an early 104-100 hole. Another sting of scoreless play pushed that margin to 109-102. The Bucks just plain ran out of steam, or swag (or something). They stumbled to the finish line, as they hit 4-of-14 shots (28.6%) and turned the ball over twice without recording an assist in the extra period.
Close, but no cigar.
4,808. Udonis Haslem grabbed some rebounds and stayed withing himself, which is something he’s done well throughout his career, and with 2:37 remaining in the first quarter he hit a surprising landmark achievement in Heat franchise history. Consider this:
With 2 rebounds today, Udonis Haslem is now the Miami Heat's all-time leading rebounder (4,808), surpassing Alonzo Mourning.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 22, 2012
18. John Henson and Chris Bosh tied for the game-high in rebounds, that gaudy total marked a career-high for Henson and a career Heat-high for Bosh. Those two soaked up so many misses that LeBron was the only other player who grabbed double-digit boards.
5-17. Brandon Jennings felt more swagtastic than that shooting line suggests during his stints after halftime, but as he cooled down the Bucks struggled to maintain any definitive control over the game. Jennings shot just 1-for-9 during the fourth quarter and overtime, which meant Monta got the chance to take the ball at the end of the game.
John Henson. The third Tube Man has officially arrived.
Tobias Harris. I was concerned that he would get steamrolled by LeBron, but Harris managed to hold his own against LBJ on the interior while surprising the reigning MVP with some potent offense. He didn't touch the floor in the fourth quarter or overtime, but he had a nice night.
Brandon Jennings. I'm convinced his swag powered the early comeback. His final line looked great, except for that pesky scoring efficiency thing -- 19 points on 9-of-25 shooting, seven rebounds, six assists, five steals and zero turnovers in a game-high 49 minutes. Half-court execution? Not so good. Transition execution? Very good.