Though the Heat were without Dwyane Wade and struggled through another off night offensively from leading man Chris Bosh (10 points, 2-17 shooting), they were able to put together consecutive 23-19 quarters up en route to an eight point halftime lead. Neither team looked particularly crisp, but Milwaukee looked especially clumsy, save for strong performances from Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who were busy dunking all over South Beach.
That quickly changed in the second half.
The Bucks had a 13-point swing in the third quarter, led by their still-stout defense. The Bucks held Miami to 4-19 shooting in the third, and did a solid job of mixing up schemes to keep Miami's offense out of rhythm and spark a series of run-outs of Miami turnovers. The Bucks were only credited with one blocked one shot tonight (Khris Middleton had it, in case you were wondering, while Giannis appeared to get another one on Bosh at the rim), but were sound schematically in protecting the restricted area, only allowing Miami to make two shots at the rim in the entire second half.
The Bucks carried an 64-59 lead heading into the fourth, and rolled out a Wolters-Bayless-Mayo-Ilyasova-Pachulia lineup to start the final period. Though that lineup doesn't exactly instill a ton of confidence in a close road game, they were able so stretch the lead to 11 and stay effective until about the six-minute mark when Miami made a mini-run that brought the starters back in. That unit scored 14 points in six minutes by whipping the ball around and making open jumpers (some lucky, but shhh) when they were available.
The Heat continued to shrink the lead until Brandon Knight dropped three back-breaking threes in a two-minute stretch to give him 20 points on the night to go with five rebounds and four assists. From there the Bucks executed their late game fundamentals well enough to get out of South Beach with the victory and split the Florida road trip.
Three Bucks went over 30 minutes tonight, none of whom are over the age of 22. Knight led the team with 34 minutes. Jabari played 33 and Giannis played 32. Ersan played 12 minutes and Jared Dudley played 10. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?
Brandon Knight went 4-7 from deep to bump his three-point percentage up to 40.5 on the young season. It's a nice increase from the 32.5 percent clip from last season--and hello small sample sizes--but it's encouraging to see that improvement coming on one less attempt per game as well. Time will tell if that trend sticks, but for now we'll chalk it up as a positive.
Tonight was the first night that Giannis and Jabari were in the starting lineup together, and it looked...not that bad. There were a handful of mistakes from the 19-year-olds (because duh), but the potential is definitely there. Once the game slows down for them, they'll be able to capitalize on their mismatches much more frequently and be able to execute cool plays together. Let's watch their little two-man game play one more time.
*wipes drool off keyboard*
Jabari once again had a fast start and quiet second half (0/3 fg, 1/2 ft in the second half after a 5/8, 12-point first half), but he didn't turn it over and picked up a couple more steals as part of the blitzing defense that turned the tide in the second half.
Khris Middleton (10 pts, 3 steals) came back nicely after missing the past several games with a sore right knee. After bricking his first couple of shots, he knocked a few down and finished with a decent 3-7 shooting line. Assuming his knee and game have fully recovered, it will be interesting to see if he can eventually take Jared Dudley's spot in the starting lineup and give fans the unit they've been waiting for all season. We don't ask for much, just let us have this.
The Bucks now head home for a match-up with the New York Knicks on Tuesday before quickly flying out to New York for Jason Kidd's return to Brooklyn on Wednesday. It should be a very interesting start to the week to say the least.