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Heat vs. Bucks Game #4 Preview: Closing time?

It's only a matter of time before the Heat advance and the Bucks go home for the summer. But will it be on Sunday?

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Mike McGinnis

Eastern Conference Playoffs First Round, Heat lead 3-0
(38-44, 21-20 home)
(66-16, 29-12 road)
April 28, 2013
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
2:30 CT
ABC | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Brandon Jennings PG Mario Chalmers
Monta Ellis SG Dwyane Wade (DTD, knee bruise)
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

Is this it? Odds are that Sunday will be the last time we see the 12/13 Bucks, though that's not to say the Bucks are in a hurry to be done with what's amounted to a largely forgettable season. Jim Boylan could be out of a job as soon as Monday--it's difficult to imagine a scenario where he returns as coach--but for now he's fighting the good fight. Or at a minimum he's saying what you're supposed to say. Andrew Gruman reports:

"It's been a long season, we've worked really hard," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. "Our guys deserve to play hard for each other, for themselves, for the fans, for everyone. We are not going to hang our heads. We aren't going to feel sorry for ourselves. We knew coming in this was going to be a tough series. We are going to keep battling and play as hard as we can and hopefully we can put some long stretches together and come out with a win."

I'm not sure the Bucks have actually worked as hard as they could over the past couple months, though that might be less a product of intent and more the result of an inability to focus and play as a team for more than a few minutes at a time. Despite employing the same system and personnel, the Bucks' defense has noticeably gone off the rails since the departure of Scott Skiles, which combined with their offensive shortcomings makes their 22-28 record under Boylan rather understandable. Whatever the reason, Boylan's had apparent issues keeping both Brandon Jennings and now J.J. Redick happy, which along with Milwaukee's unconvincing record gives the Bucks every reason to look for a new coach when the season ends.

Redick played well early in Thursday's loss, but afterwards he contradicted Boylan's suggestion that they had talked following his second half benching in game two. Good times! Whether his topsy-turvy close to the season has turned Redick off to the idea of re-signing with the Bucks is yet to be determined, but you can't imagine it's helped--even if Boylan is as good as gone. Of course, whether there's even a point to paying Redick $7+ million per season is an equally important decision; he's a quality pro, but at 29 he's not going to move the dial much for a team like the Bucks. Which isn't to say Redick wants to lay down and high-tail it out of Milwaukee quite yet. Via Charles Gardner

"Part of it is just who you are as a person," Bucks guard J.J. Redick said after the team's practice session Saturday. "There are always people who will fight until the end.

"I don't think there's anybody on this team who would ever give in consciously or any of that. It's something you have to fight mentally, as an athlete and as a person.

"The mentally tough guys will come (Sunday) with an attitude and mentality that we can get a win."

That statement could be interpreted as either a PC non-answer or a subtle shot-across the bow of certain teammates, but I'd say effort hasn't been the issue for the past week at least. Still, simply trying hard hasn't prevented Chris Andersen (10.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 87% shooting!) and the undersized Heat from mostly dominating the boards and (more predictably) doing whatever they want offensively. In that sense the Bucks have been stuck playing whack-a-mole for three games now defensively, taking away one thing only to see the Heat use other weapons to blitz them into submission. LeBron (in a very relative sense), Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have all been slowed down to varying extents at times in the series, but guys like Andersen and Ray Allen (23 points on a raft of open threes in game three) have picked up the slack as needed.

Wade hurting. The Heat's challenge might be a bit tougher for Miami on Sunday if Dwyane Wade (bruised knee) is rested, though Erik Spoelstra wasn't tipping his hand about Wade's status on Friday. Wade struggled through a 1/12 shooting effort in game three, but he added 11 assists and nine rebounds to help compensate for his wayward shooting night--and having Ray Allen come off the bench to contribute 23 didn't hurt either. If Wade is indeed hurting, Spoelstra has the uncommon luxury of resting him without the threat of severe repercussions--not only because the Heat are up 3-0, but also because the Heat went 11-2 without Wade this season. In short, the Heat are a machine: they have now won an incredible 40 times in their last 42 games, and have reached the point where they can easily cope with the loss of a top-five shooting guard and former Finals MVP.

Shooting. Over at Grantland, the intrepid Zach Lowe writes that with nothing to lose, the Bucks might as well get weird--as long as it involves Ersan Ilyasova.

The Bucks need as much shooting on the floor as possible, and they've been unwilling to risk putting out lineups that either feature Ilyasova at center or pair Ilyasova, a true center (LARRY SANDERS! or Ekpe Udoh), and three guards/wings who are not named Luc Richard Mbah a Moute or Marquis Daniels. Jim Boylan rightly understands that those two are the only perimeter players on hand with any chance of guarding LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but neither one can shoot, and the Bucks can't defend Miami regardless of which lineups they play. It's not as if Milwaukee is allowing Mbah a Moute to play LeBron straight up in the post; they're sending help, like everyone else does, and LeBron is either scoring or picking out 3-point shooters.