Even with LeBron James departed for
greener colder pastures, no one expected the Milwaukee Bucks to emerge as the new kings of South Beach this season. But...well, here we are.
Another dominant night from Jason Kidd's bench helped Milwaukee improve to 3-0 against the Heat on Tuesday night, with Jerryd Bayless the fourth quarter star for the second time in as many games. Bayless scored 11 of his 15 points (6/8 fg) in the final period to go with seven assists and no turnovers, including seven straight points to key a 13-3 fourth quarter surge.
Not that Bayless did it alone of course. Seven Bucks scored between 11 and 17 points, with Khris Middleton (7/9 fg, 17 pts) and Brandon Knight (17 pts, 6 ast) leading the way early before Bayless, John Henson (4/5 fg, 12 pts), O.J. Mayo (14 pts) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (4/6 fg, 13 pts, 5 reb 4 ast, 1 blk) got the job done in the second half. Chris Bosh led Miami with 26 points on 19 shots, while Mario Chalmers gave the Bucks P&R problems all night (21 points, 6/9 fg, 8 ast).
Making matters more difficult for Miami was the absence of Dwyane Wade, while the Bucks lost Ersan Ilyasova to a groin injury in the first half (advantage: Bucks). Wade had 12 points in his first 19 minutes before departing with a tweaked hamstring, though it didn't stop Miami from reeling off a 16-6 third quarter run to take a 78-68 lead. The lead didn't last long, however, as the Bucks responded with their own 14-2 run inspired by the inside-out work of Mayo and Henson.
Both teams shot well early, with Middleton and Knight each ripping off 10 first quarter points to counter nine from Bosh. With Miami putting little pressure on the ball, the Bucks moved the ball well (14 assists on 19 first half field goals) and consistently punished Miami from from deep (6/10). But they also allowed Miami to convert at a 51% clip, struggling to effectively contest Wade and Bosh and allowing too many open looks early in the shot clock.
- Giannis played the role of distributor early on, notching three early assists before getting a bit more involved offensively in the second half. Knight found him for a pair of nice finishes in the middle quarters, though he had his best moments in the halfcourt on a pair of hooks shots from post-ups.
But just as important were his contributions on the defensive end against Bosh. With Ilyasova out, Giannis played the entire second half and spent most of the fourth quarter seemingly inside Bosh's shirt, using his length to block one shot and heavily contest three others. You know how Giannis just looks a bit more amped up playing against guys like Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant? That was his him tonight in crunch time against Bosh.
- The Bucks went with a three guard lineup of Bayless, Mayo and Knight for key stretches of the fourth, with Bayless killing the Heat on pull-up jumpers and Knight relegated to off-ball duties. It worked well for Bayless and Mayo, less so for Knight (0/2 fg, 2/2 ft, 2 to in the 4th).
- The Bucks shot a scorching 55% overall and 56% on threes. while Miami (51%) became the first Bucks' opponent in 18 games to crack the 50% shooting mark (12/18 vs. Kings). The Bucks are now 6-1 this season when shooting better than 50% from the field and from three, with their only loss coming at home against Dallas on December 3.