The Milwaukee Bucks spent last week making meaningful change across the NBA with their protest of Game 5, then proceeded to close out the Orlando Magic on Saturday. That gave them just a single day of rest before kicking off their second round series against the Miami Heat. We’re down to the best four teams in the East now, and the Heat are already a trendy upset pick from national pundits.
The most pressing issue on most Bucks’ fans mind is the status of Eric Bledsoe, who was listed as questionable with a hamstring strain on the injury report.
Mike Budenholzer confirmed Eric Bledsoe had some hamstring “awareness” after the game yesterday. Says he is making progress. Bledsoe is listed as questionable for game one against Miami tomorrow.— Kane Pitman (@KanePitman) August 30, 2020
Without Bledsoe, the question is whether Donte DiVincenzo gets his usual starting spot as Bud’s done in the past, or if they would prefer to have the stabilizing presence of George Hill in the starting lineup instead. Regardless, if there’s no Bledsoe, it will be even more important for the Bucks guards to dig in and battle through screens to blow up Miami’s ever-flowing offensive system. If you’re looking for a more detailed breakdown of the series as a whole, check out my four factors to watch piece.
Player to Watch: Donte DiVincenzo
If there’s no Bledsoe, even if Donte doesn’t start, he’ll be forced to play more within Bud’s offense. At this stage of his development, it doesn’t look like he’s quite ready for lead ballhandling duties, but he can still provide a punch if he can knife through Miami’s defense and finish better at the rim. He’ll be an interesting foil in comparison to Tyler Herro, the Heat’s lead guard who is admittedly a far superior shooter. Either way, Donte hasn’t performed in the Playoffs at the level of his regular season capability, and Milwaukee will need more bench players like him to find their rhythm if they want to advance.
Miami made quick work of Indiana in the first round, 4-0, and have been off for a full week awaiting their next opponent. It’s the inverse of last year, when Milwaukee was able to have plenty of days off in between each round. I’m not sure whether that works in the Bucks favor or not, but Miami is likely veteran enough that the layoff shouldn’t impact their play. Look for the Heat to fire away from deep with reckless abandon, and I’d expect to see heavy doses of pick-and-pop with Kelly Olynyk and possibly Meyers Leonard. We’ll have to monitor if Bud wants to switch up his defense at all to combat the Heat’s potent 5-men from deep, but I am doubtful he’ll alter much even after Vucevic’s success last round.
Chris Silva is listed as out for the Heat and Gabe Vincent is questionable.
Player to Watch: Goran Dragic
Dragic shifted into the starting lineup as Kendrick Nunn fell out of favor, and the crafty veteran is still capable of getting to the rim, shooting off the dribble and should provide a solid test of the Bucks backcourt whether Bledsoe is playing or not. He can get lost in the shuffle, but he averaged 22.8 against Indiana and led the team in scoring. He’ll be assignment number one for Bledsoe, Hill and DiVincenzo throughout the contest.
Game 1: Against Miami, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)