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Milwaukee vs. Miami: Matinee Massacre Occurs As Bucks Fall Against Heat

Milwaukee’s offense looked as off-kilter as ever

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

A matinee mutilation ensued yesterday as the Milwaukee Bucks fell handily to the Miami Heat, 97-79 as the Heat pulled away in the second half. Milwaukee took a 23-21 lead after one quarter, with Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo getting themselves to the free throw line plenty. That advantage held throughout the second quarter too, with Giannis sitting almost half the period. A tough shooting half for both teams (37.5% for Milwaukee, 35% for Miami) led to a 43-41 lead for the Bucks at half, with Brogdon as the high man at 10 points. A horrendous third quarter followed for Milwaukee, trailing 71-59 heading into the fourth as their offense looked lost, out of rhythm and reliant solely on a few late quarter makes from Giannis. There was no savior in the fourth either for the Bucks, as the deficit only grew until Miami finally finished it out with the win.

Three Main Observations

Missing out on the fast break

Milwaukee wasn’t able to create much of anything on the break in the first half today. With just two points, Miami was able to get back continually and prevent Giannis or Bledsoe from speeding past their backline defense for an easy bucket. They also only had one offensive rebound that half, and while they’re just 23rd in the league in that stat, it can be indicative of a team hustling their butts back rather than trying to attack the rim for a second chance. Regardless, Milwaukee also blew it a few times with a botched Middleton fast break and Giannis missing an easy lay-in as the half wound down. Milwaukee’s ranked 7th with 13.7 fast break points per game, so it’s a relatively important part of their potent offense that was absent all day. They finished with only six on the day.

Bucks balk on passing

Milwaukee posted their worst assist percentage of the year today, with just 36% of their buckets being assisted. Previously, their worst mark was 44.4% that they tallied in last week’s win over the Magic. For context, the Portland Trailblazers are currently bringing up the rear in assist percentage at 48.9%. Today’s showing by Milwaukee wasn’t just a mark of an inexcusably horrendous inability to knock down open shots from deep (4-28/14.3% overall), but an offense that clearly wasn’t seeing its component parts coalesce into anything worthwhile. It was every man for himself today and it showed all afternoon as the Heat enveloped Milwaukee’s assaults at the rim.

Funky Khris Middleton (and not in a good way)

Khris Middleton was in some kinda gnarly funk today. He missed two wide-open threes early in the third quarter that could’ve shaken him off from his poor first half. Instead they clanked off the iron and portended what would continue to be a tiring afternoon for Khris as every shot seemed to carom away no matter how far the closest Heat defender was. While he finished just -4 for the game, going 3-16 (0-8 from deep) with just two assists won’t cut it if Milwaukee hopes to make the type of leap they’re hoping for. He’s now shot below 40% from the field in three of his last five games.

Bonus Bucks Bits

John Henson tried a rare right-handed hook shot early in the first quarter against Hassan Whiteside. Unfortunately, Whiteside barely let it leave Henson’s hand before sending it back. So much for giving Henson confidence in any ambidexterity.

Milwaukee’s defensive paint problems have been a well-known issue all season, and the lack of a center with any sort of defined muscle could be construed as an issue against a mammoth like Whiteside. However, early in the first quarter Henson let Whiteside catch the entry pass after fronting him and as Giannis helped over for what should’ve been an easy trap on the baseline, Whiteside shimmied around him for an uncontested dunk at the rim. That’s not even a lack of communication or breakdown, it’s just a lack of caring.

They showed this on the telecast and Zach Lowe covered it in his 10 things he likes and doesn’t like a few weeks ago, but Wayne Ellington wastes absolutely no space curling around screens for a quick shot on handoffs. Bam Adebayo picked Kilpatrick to the point he had almost no sideline to work with while Ellington pushed himself to the brink of the court before whirling back around his center for an easy look over Thon’s outstretched arm. Both Middleton and Snell would do well to try and mimic those strategies, as well as Ellington’s well-manicured itchy trigger finger. It did bite Ellington in the butt though in the third when he stepped out of bounds.

Giannis sat for one of the longest stretches early in a game I can remember. He exited at 3:15 of the first quarter and didn’t return until 5:48 of the second. Milwaukee actually went +2 over that time, a refreshing change of pace given his gaudy plus-minus when he’s on the court versus off.

Giannis is starting to get calls when he forces players to jump in the air on a pump fake. That’s a testament to increased respect for the fact he’s willing to shoot, plus he’s looked far more in control when forcing contact on his way up for the jumper. He got James Johnson on one today and even managed to sink the shot.

It may have been a quiet first half for Giannis, but he had a hook pass from beneath the Heat logo to a cutting Brogdon that was such a thing of beauty. There haven’t been as many gasp-worthy Giannis passes this year, but this belongs among them, not to mention the strength needed to whirl this thing down with oomph.

Milwaukee started the third quarter with an incredible sequence of poor offense. Some highlights included two wide-open missed threes by Middleton, a botched fast break attempt by Bledsoe screwed by an errant pass, a Bledsoe stepback corner three and a Middleton elbow post-up and mid-lane pull-up attempt. It was abysmal as they started the quarter 1-10 from the field.

Milwaukee was far too enamored with barreling towards the hoop and leaving their feet before spinning to hope someone was there to pass to and bail them out. It’s a common practice of Bledsoe’s, often ending in disaster, and Giannis tried the same thing on a fast break in the third quarter. Even if it was against three defenders, he may as well just try to lay it up and get fouled.

Warning: Brogdon yam alert! His posters might just be my favorites given they always seem unexpected even after all the players he’s framed.

Thon Maker looked worlds behind the Heat’s rookie, Bam Adebayo, today. Adebayo looked far more comfortable rolling to the rim, could corral and finish a ball in traffic, could actually catch a basketball and didn’t seem like every move was him moving at 3x the speed necessary. Thon (stat line) continues to flounder in his sophomore season, and his poor shooting numbers, not to mention limited shots this year, haven’t contributed the sort of spacing that should’ve been his best benefit. The best example of the gulf between the two came in the fourth, when Adebayo got the ball beneath the circle in the lane, mismatched against Delly, and coolly put in a short shot that swished. On the other end, Thon tried thumping his chest into Olynyk’s and going up for a haphazard layup, got his own rebound, and looked just as frenzied trying to get another shot up rather than gathering his composure for a second. The game has only seemed to speed up for him, a bad sign.

To avoid a total Thon bash, he did have a nice hook pass beneath the basket to Sterling Brown in the corner for a swished three. He was a also a team-high +3 for the game.

The Bucks have another afternoon game tomorrow against the Wizards before facing the Heat again on Wednesday. They close the week out against Philadelphia. All are teams Milwaukee’s grappling with in the playoff race and this was quite the inauspicious start to an important stretch of games.