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Bucks vs. Heat Preview: A Soirée in South Beach

The two teams match up for the first time since October

NBA: Miami Heat at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks had a lighter back-to-back with an early tip Sunday against Charlotte that ultimately went their way, 93-85. They jetted down to Miami afterwards for their first matchup with the Heat since October’s 131-126 OT defeat.

Bucks Update

Much has changed since Miami handed Milwaukee their first loss of the season. Remember the 2-2 days folks? Those were some wild times. Fifty wins later and the Bucks are running away with the East while Miami continues its ascension after the arrival of Jimmy Butler in the offseason. Milwaukee’s win over Charlotte felt like a consummate, “taking care of business” victory, as most of their early afternoon games do. That 93-85 win may have snapped their 100-point streak at 83 games, but Giannis Antetokounmpo had no trouble flashing an array of moves in the wake of No-skillgate. Indeed, those moves took him to 41 points, 20 boards and six assists, all accomplished without Khris Middleton around, who sat out his second straight game.

Player to Watch: Eric Bledsoe

Much of his early season contests remain marred by likely lingering effects of his preseason rib injury. As such, it’s not all that surprising he went for just 10 points and seven boards on eight shots in that October game. If Middleton is out, he will have to help pick up some of the scoring slack from Giannis (provided Giannis doesn’t go nuclear again), and you can bet Spo has drawn up myriad looks to throw burly wings at Giannis in hopes of stopping him in his tracks. Bledsoe will need to be ready to break through Miami’s defensive shell and finish over and around the length of Bam Adebayo. This could bear monitoring in this game as well.

Heat Update

Miami has flown this year behind the arrival of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo’s breakthrough season and the continued elevation that comes with Spo’s stellar tactics. Bam’s All-Star season has seen his PPG nearly double to 16.2, to go along with 10.5 boards and, most impressive to me, 5.1 assists per contest. You don’t see many big men with that level of dishes for their teammates. That’s not even mentioning his defensive impact, where his combination of speed, size and intuition has him decimating low-post plays practically before they even begin. He can nimbly corral guards when needed. Great story too.

Meanwhile, Butler has provided the ball handling and play making juice this team couldn’t quite muster with just Goran Dragic. They have surrounded him with shooters in Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn offers a little wiggle off the bounce. Perhaps only the Raptors rival them in terms of being able to polish gems buried amidst the draft (and undrafted) scraps.

Miami will be without Tyler Herro and Meyers Leonard for this one.

Player to Watch: Bam Adebayo

Bam was a budding beast last year and this season has only calcified his immense potential on that end of the floor. He will be a fascinating test for Giannis, another in a long line of Heat wings and bigs who are prototypically built to be “Giannis Stoppers.” The Greek Freak had 29/17/9 last time out in October...seems about right against most ballyhooed Giannis Stoppers.


Game 59: Against OKC, the Bucks will...

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