Despite a late push from the Heat that kept the BMO faithful from fleeing for a jump-start on their Friday night soirees, the Milwaukee Bucks took care of business by putting away an injury-riddled Miami squad, 115-106.
Giannis seemed completely recovered from whatever cruel bug ailed him earlier in the week, starting the contest off with some thunderous dunks en route to 19 points, eight rebounds, six assists and a steal and block. Jabari Parker put up 24 points, five rebounds and two assists with 18 of those points coming in the second half. Greg Monroe had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Michael Beasley added another strong outing with 11 points and seven rebounds while Malcolm Brogdon had 13 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Miami was a mixed bag all night, with an even effort among the MASH unit they trotted out. Both Dragic and Whiteside had 19 points (Whiteside with 11 rebounds), the always popular Luke Babbitt threw in 16 points and Dion Waiters had 13 points on an almost too stereotypical 5-17 night shooting.
The Heat never really felt competitive until the fourth quarter though, trailing by ten to twenty points for the majority of the game. Their rally at the end came on some lackadaisical Milwaukee defense and 11 second half turnovers that led to 17 Miami points. The Bucks, surprisingly considering Whiteside’s rebounding propensity, destroyed Miami on the boards with a plus-19 advantage. Overall shooting was a wash with Miami at 49.4% and Milwaukee at 50% on just three less shots, but the Heat went 12-32 (37.5%) from deep compared to Milwaukee’s miniature but efficient 9-15 (60%) night.
It was clear Giannis shed any lingering effects from his illness right away, with a transition dunk to immediately open the scoring. He followed up that flush with two more like it in the opening minutes, including this outrageous double-pump dunk that started at an illogical distance from the hoop that made it 15-7.
The bench unit entering didn’t stop the early scoring spree, as Greg Monroe shoveled the ball into the basket repeatedly with jumpers and opportune finishes to finish with 12 points in the period, despite playing merely five and a half minutes. Miami stayed with Milwaukee through an uncharacteristically strong 5-9 from the three-point line, but Milwaukee shot 61% on the quarter and got to the free throw line 13 times as they led 42-30 after one.
Giannis continued his quest to embarrass the Heat by slam dunking every shot he made, turning Luke Babbitt into a house cat pawing at his arm while he once again bent the hoop to his will to make it 51-35.
Are we sure this man is human??? pic.twitter.com/CpK5cwvkUK— BrewHoop.com (@brewhoop) January 14, 2017
Milwaukee maintained a commanding lead for the rest of the second quarter, with Malcolm Brogdon battling with Goran Dragic in back-to-back attempts to one-up each other at the rim, with Brogdon eventually drawing Dragic’s third foul and heading to the line before putting Milwaukee up 64-46.
The Bucks went into halftime winning 65-48 as Monroe led Milwaukee with 14 points and six rebounds, Malcolm Brogdon added 11 points and Giannis had 10 points, six rebounds and two assists. Jabari sat at a quiet six points. Milwaukee shot 49% on the half, and built up their lead with an 18-21 performance at the free throw line compared to 4-5 for the Heat.
The Heat’s flaming start dampened in the second, hitting just 1-9 from deep in the second quarter, and finishing at 48% shooting on the half. Their box score was just a depressing jumble of single digit scorers, but Goran Dragic led the way with nine points and Whiteside had six.
Snell started the second half with an easy-looking three off a pass from Giannis, followed up with a swooping underhand lay-in against Goran Dragic down low. The Heat found some success early with Dion Waiters, who hit a shot and dished to Luke Babbitt for a corner three to make it 72-58. As he’s wont to do though, Waiters started feeling himself and the Bucks were able to re-extend their lead to 80-60 after a few ill-advised Waiters attempts.
Thon Maker got another chance at extended minutes tonight, coming in with 3:32 left in the third and Milwaukee up 87-67. Much to the delight of the ever-gracious BMO crowd, Thon managed to get a block and a bucket, with Milwaukee finishing up 91-74 after three.
Miami’s three-point shots started falling again in the fourth, as Luke Babbitt and Wayne Ellington bookended easy makes in the paint from James Johnson, and Miami closed the gap to 96-86 within three minutes. Kidd downsized to counter Miami’s James Johnson as center lineup, running out a Delly-Terry-Snell-Parker-Giannis crew. Miami got it down to within eight, but Giannis responded with six straight points on a dish from Brogdon for a dunk and pretty step-through as Milwaukee returned to a 105-93 lead.
Jabari Parker decided to take the beleaguered Heat defenders to the rack on a Madden spin move, and Brogdon followed suit with a contested lay-in that left Tyler Johnson Charlie Browning it on the baseline. Milwaukee finished this one out with a 116-108 victory.
A bevy of Milwaukee Bucks players had slick passes in the first quarter. Henson had a swift bounce pass to a cutting Jabari on the baseline that he got out of his hands as soon as they touched them. Michael Beasley threw a one-handed bouncer with some english to Greg Monroe from halfcourt, and Giannis had a casual right-handed flick of the wrist into the paint for another bucket. Delly had one too, right across the lane after drawing James Johnson from the hoop to a lurking Greg Monroe. Fun stuff that led to 11 assists on 14 field goals in the quarter.
Greg Monroe didn’t play in the last Miami and Milwaukee tilt. Tonight, he scored 12 points in less than six minutes during his first game action. He made jumpers, bullied layups up against Miami’s porous second-unit frontline and was generally the same hyper competent player he’s been all season. The further we get from it, that DNP-CD stint is seeming even more and more peculiar in retrospect.
Milwaukee’s defensive scheme involves double-teaming the big, which can sometimes hinder the defense when they go against an alert center with some passing ability. Hassan Whiteside is not that center, and their adroit double-teams were an ideal strategy tonight with their length leading to an easy steal by Jason Terry in the second quarter as Whiteside tried to dish to the perimeter.
It took the Bucks 18:32 minutes of game time to commit their first turnover. They ended with merely two turnovers in the first half despite a plethora of sequences featuring some of the Bucks’ most extensive ball movement in the half court all season. Milwaukee still isn’t any sort of Royal Guard when controlling the offense, but they’ve improved from 25th last season in turnover percentage to 16th this season. Of course, they coughed it up in the second half like the refs buttered the ball at halftime, finishing with 11 turnovers in that half.
The biggest low-key subplot of these two Miami Heat games has probably been the success Miami defenders had against Giannis in the halfcourt offense. Giannis is still someone who relies a lot on transition buckets for his points, but
MacGruber McGruder used his full array of tricks to hold him off, cement wall James Johnson stonewalled him occasionally and Dion Waiters’ impossibly dense lower body held strong in the post. The most promising takeaway? That Giannis shook all that off to come back with a strong fourth quarter, attacking the heat for a hook shot and stepping through the Heat interior to finish with nine points in the final quarter.
Mirza Teletovic didn’t play tonight after struggling against the Spurs and effectively getting benched when Thon Maker came in and played competently. Beasley’s strong play the last two games has contributed to that, but it’ll be curious to see whether Teletovic starts seeing some of his minutes evaporate. Kidd mentioned wanting to find more time for Thon after the San Antonio game, and at this point it appears that won’t be coming at the expense of any of the center’s minutes. Unless there’s a move made, someone’s going to keep being the odd man out in Milwaukee’s frontcourt rotation. For his part, Teletovic did play horrendous defense against San Antonio, but his usefulness in getting up quick transition threes has been a quality missing from Milwaukee’s offense the past two games.
It’s been a low-key development amid the hubbub of their success the past few weeks, but Milwaukee has quietly been attempting nearly the least threes in the league over that period. They’re still ranked 23rd over the full season with 23.7/game, but over the last 10 games they’re second-to-last in the league at 21.2/game, just ahead of the Phoenix Suns at 21/game. It certainly hasn’t harmed their efficiency though, as they’re ranked fourth in the league over that span with a 113.2 rating compared to their season-long 8th-ranked 107.4 rating. How Milwaukee’s three-point attempts fluctuate over the coming months may be something to monitor, particularly if Mirza’s minutes dwindle.