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Bucks vs. Heat Final Score: Middleton money once again in 91-79 victory

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The Bucks won their third straight game behind another great performance from Khris Middleton.

Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports

Both the Bucks and Miami Heat struggled at times throughout the first quarter, but the Bucks used a hot second quarter to pull away from Miami and take control of a game they eventually won, 91-79. Khris Middleton continued his recent stretch of strong play with 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists to lead the Bucks to victory.

Middleton hit two threes in the first three minutes to help the Bucks run out to a 11-4 lead before missing his next seven shots, five of which came in the first quarter. The Heat finished the first quarter on a 14-8 run to pull within one as the teams headed to the second quarter.

In just his second game back from injury, Jerryd Bayless (11 points) made his presence felt with two threes in the first four minutes of the second quarter and helped the Bucks get it going in the quarter. Each of the starters added at least one basket, but Middleton led the way with seven points in the quarter. Eventually, the Bucks scored 30 second quarter points and led the Heat, 49-39.

After giving the Heat some life at the start of the second half, the Bucks rattled off a 20-4 run to take a 71-49 lead and put the game out of reach for good. Greg Monroe started the run with back-to-back baskets, but was eventually replaced by John Henson, who added seven quick points. During the run, the Bucks defense actually took care of their responsibilities and forced the Heat into a number of missed shots and turnovers

The Heat eventually outscored the Bucks 22-16 in the fourth quarter, but it really didn't matter much as both teams stopped caring at the end of the third quarter. Middleton once again led the way for the Bucks, but had some help from Giannis Antetokounmpo (14 points, six rebounds and four assists) and Monroe (15 points and 10 rebounds).

Milwaukee will have a few days off before heading to Houston to take on James Harden and the Rockets on Friday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST.

Tidbits

  • The Heat started Tyler Johnson at point guard and Michael Carter-Williams put full court pressure on him up and down the floor. Johnson quickly picked up two fouls, which forced the Heat to go to Josh Richardson. Richardson almost immediately made his presence felt.
  • Jabari Parker was active early with an assist to Antetokounmpo for a dunk and an early catch-and-shoot jump shot.
  • On back-to-back plays, Carter-Williams and Antetokounmpo had two of the silliest transition turnovers I can remember at the start of the third quarter.
  • Despite some mistakes tonight, Antetokounmpo was able to do a little bit of everything. Most impressively, he threw down three dunks with his left hand and that turned a few heads.
  • Parker only scored nine points, but the four shots he hit looked great, including three of the most impressive pull-up jumpers he has hit this season.
  • Henson entered the game for Monroe in the third quarter and the Bucks quickly went on an 8-2 run.
  • Middleton has now scored 20 or more points in seven of his last eight games (h/t Aron Yohannes).
  • The Bucks have won three straight games for the first time since their four-game winning streak at the start of the season.

Thoughts

  • The Bucks' transition defense has been terrible this entire season and the first quarter of Tuesday's game presented another wonderful example. On the play, Antetokounmpo ran up the floor roughly five feet in front of the Heat player bringing up the ball on the right wing. When the Heat moved the ball to the point guard in the middle of the floor, Antetokounmpo realized that wasn't his assignment and sort of sauntered to the free throw line. He remained there for the remainder of the possession despite Parker trying to cover two players on the left wing by himself.
  • On that note, that mistake could not have been fixed by more or better effort and I'm tired of people saying bad defense can be fixed that easy. NBA defense is really hard. You need to know your opponents' strengths and weakness. You need to identify offensive tendencies. You need to communicate your position. You need to communicate your opponents' positions. You need to understand the proper rotations in a multitude of situations. Working harder does not fix problems with any of those things.
  • Khris Middleton is currently the Bucks' No. 1 offensive option and he has improved so much that asking him to be the primary playmaker isn't all that crazy.
  • The Bucks do not have enough shooters on the team, but their cuts are mesmerizing. There was a stretch in December where both Antetokounmpo and Parker were struggling and forcing things on offense, including cutting too often and on top of other players, which really mucked up the offense as a whole. Their confidence has been back lately and that has resulted in some gorgeous, perfectly timed cuts that have given opposing defenders fits.
  • Henson has been taking some of Monroe's time with the rest of the starting five and is fully taking advantage of the opportunity. That five man unit played six minutes together tonight and put up an offensive rating of 139.3 and a defensive rating of 64.3. On the season, they have now played 49 minutes together and managed to compile an offensive rating of 107.2 and a defensive rating of 83.2.
  • There is no denying that the Heat were a mess without Goran Dragic or Beno Udrih (and essentially Dwyane Wade), but the Bucks' defense was great tonight and kept the Heat from getting anything easy.