After laying their 11th egg in 13 games against the Heat, the Bucks are now one poor performance short of a dozen and may be without Jabari Parker for the foreseeable future. Parker went down in the third quarter with what’s being called a “left knee sprain” at the moment while Bucks’ fans nervously await a more official diagnosis.
Meanwhile, the Bucks looked like a deflated balloon before Parker’s injury, and his exit made them look more like a battered piñata devoid of emotion. Khris Middleton’s return to the court became immediately overshadowed, and Milwaukee struggled to stop much of anything the Heat wanted to do.
Giannis had 22 points, eight rebounds, an assist, two steals and a block, Khris Middleton mustered five points, two rebounds and two assists in his return and Jabari, well, Jabari had...*starts sobbing*.
Hassan Whiteside brutalized the Bucks’ centers for 23 points and 16 rebounds, Goran Dragic added 16 points and seven assists and James Johnson rounded it out with 20 points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.
The Heat shot 47.7% on the night compared to Milwaukee’s 46.5% and dominated the boards all night, posting 14 offensive boards and outrebounding Milwaukee by, surprise, 14. Milwaukee shot only 15 three-pointers on the night, and in all honesty, didn’t look very energetic before the Parker injury and simply seemed to buckle as the game wound down.
Milwaukee started off by allowing the Heat to dictate every second of this matchup, as they hit two corner threes followed by Dragic penetrating to the rim at will. Even the return of Khris Middleton at the 7:26 mark of the game didn’t stop the bleeding, as Miami went up 17-2 to force Jason Kidd’s second timeout before six minutes even elapsed. Jabari Parker heated up with six points off jumpers for Milwaukee, but the Heat maintained a 21-8 lead. Giannis re-entrance catalyzed a few hustle lay-ins, but the Heat ended the first quarter ahead 28-15 after Willie Reed inexplicably nailed a three-pointer.
Giannis started the second quarter with a pass to himself off the backboard for a dunk, and then another dunk off some high-low action with Greg Monroe, and a Mirza Teletovic three brought Milwaukee within 32-23. Unfortunately, the Heat continued to circumnavigate the Bucks’ defenders, following easy routes to the hoop and feeding Hassan Whiteside for oops as the Heat led 42-29. Milwaukee made a go of it to close out the quarter, with Tony Snell bucketing two sweet threes and Jabari finishing the half with an emphatic baseline drive to the hoop and trampoline dunk. In a fitting end to the half, the Bucks let Goran Dragic use his left hand and he scored easily by walling off Greg Monroe for a lay-in as the Bucks trailed 55-44 at half.
Giannis had eight points and three rebounds, while Jabari managed 12 points and two assists. Tony Snell had six points, but that was about it for Milwaukee highlights. For Miami, Whiteside led with 17 points and 11 rebounds with Goran Dragic adding 13 points, three rebounds and four assists.
Miami shot only marginally better than Milwaukee, 45.7% to 43.2%, but had nine offensive rebounds on the half for an outrageous 40.9% offensive rebound percentage. They slaughtered the Bucks in the paint (34-20) and outscored Milwaukee on points off turnovers (10-4) despite the Bucks only having seven turnovers to Miami’s nine.
Both teams yo-yo’d with scoring spurts to start the second half, as Giannis chucked home a deep three-pointer and got to the free throw line to pull within 59-49. The ever resourceful Rodney McGruder answered with his own five-point spurt by shattering Jabari’s ankles off a closeout and sending home another three. Several minutes later, Jabari Parker went down with a minimal contact left knee issue while driving on Luke Babbitt to the hoop. He was helped off the floor by teammates and would be ruled out with a “left knee sprain” for the time being.
The Heat continued to get offensive boards and prime looks directly underneath the hoop in consort with a banked-in three as the quarter rolled on. Khris Middleton showed some signs of life with a teardrop runner, but the Bucks trailed 81-63 after three.
In the fourth quarter Michael Beasley hit some shots, gave a guttural scream at the basketball on a free throw, Giannis hit a three and the Bucks’ defense continued to stink. Milwaukee lost 106-88.
Here’s the play where Jabari Parker injured his left knee and was eventually helped off the floor by his teammates, Thon Maker and Michael Beasley:
Jabari Parker's left knee. Again. Oh no. pic.twitter.com/MlLqefPRzb— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) February 9, 2017
The first question is why? Why on this of all days, the day that Khris Middleton finally returned from his own crippling injury did Jabari Parker have to be stripped from Bucks’ fandom’s arms. It is a cruel twist of fate. There’s no confirmation as of now that it is indeed another ACL injury, but the manner in which he went down and the way his knee buckles should make every Bucks fan brace for the worst. As for what this means for the team, it’s almost impossible to create a succinct summation of the repercussions of what an injury to Jabari would mean for this franchise. Two ACL tears within basically two years would dramatically lower the possibility he could reach his theoretical ceiling, a height which is already being lowered as I type this. The Bucks’ “core three” suddenly seems far more in flux, not to mention the fact that Jabari is up for an extension this summer, and the prospect of giving a large contract to someone with this type of injury history would give any franchise pause. There will be plenty of time to unpack this issue in the days to come, but for now, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope that somehow his MRI tomorrow holds positive news.
Here are some thoughts on the actual game if you’re still interested:
- Early in the game Jon McGlocklin mentioned on the telecast that the Bucks defense isn’t working because the players admitted they weren’t communicating. That pretty much vibes with the eye test over this huge stretch of games, and remains a rather inexcusable offense.
- Willie Reed had attempted two three-pointers his entire career before tonight. He hit one at the end of the first quarter. In related news, it wasn’t a great start for the Bucks. That’s become a recurring theme in this stretch of poor play, as Milwaukee’s defense continues to allow teams to stake out comfortable leads to start the game.
- Khris Middleton seemed fine tonight. He moved around on the court. He had a shot fake and drove to draw free throws at the hoop. He seemed very interested and willing to try and take Miami’s inexperienced guards off the dribble, a welcome sight and something that just doesn’t fall within Tony Snell’s skillset at the moment. He also shot a three-pointer that was a little short and looked like he was still trying to get his legs under him.
- Speaking of Tony Snell, his improvement in the area the Bucks needed most from him has been jarring:
Haven't updated this in a while - Most improved shooters from last season to this season: pic.twitter.com/2aDFceIyjX— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) February 8, 2017
- Giannis’ blocks at the hoop are so spectacular. The level of body control he shows is amazing, and on one block against Dragic you can just see his eyes slowly tracking the ball like a predator as Dragic tried to finagle it around his neverending limbs.
- Milwaukee’s defense looked entirely overmatched again tonight despite the Heat’s complete lack of playmakers outside of Dragic basically. Without Dion Waiters in the game, most of their lineup is made up of guys even die-hards might not recognize. Still, the Bucks continued to give up easy buckets at the rim, as the Heat drew Milwaukee’s interior defenders from the rim and the Bucks’ backups failed to rotate over efficiently to defer Miami away.
- Khris Middleton drove to the hoop and dished to Monroe in a very BrogRoe type move with a sleek little scoop to Moose for the quick finish. That sort of creation skill bodes well for Middleton functioning on that second unit with Monroe for the time being while he recovers from injury and if he works with Monroe once they start staggering the Bucks’ stars.