Don’t look now, but it’s another matinee matchup in the Orlando bubble. Hopefully, this one goes better than last time, as the Milwaukee Bucks prepare to battle a team that has often been a challenge, the Miami Heat. At least the bubble is still intact, for now.
Another round of good news from Orlando... https://t.co/v7X4PIfRJA— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) August 5, 2020
It’s not often that the Mike Budenholzer-led Bucks are on a losing streak, but here we are. After dropping consecutive games to Houston and Brooklyn, today’s game against Miami represents an opportunity to get back on the right track and avoid falling into a 3-game skid. Of course, not only is Miami a tough team, but the Bucks are 0-2 against the Heat so far this season.
So what’s the deal? Part of it is shooting. Part of it is turnovers. But mostly, the Bucks simply haven’t demonstrated that they’re taking these bubble games seriously enough; yes, they have a firm grip on the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and home court advantage is no longer a thing, so it’s fine to claim that these regular season games don’t matter. On the other hand, Milwaukee is losing opportunities to establish the momentum they’ll need to catapult them through the playoffs and into the NBA Finals. Let’s hope today is a turn for the better.
Only Wes Matthews appears on the injured list; he missed the Nets game with a calf issue and is considered day-to-day.
Player to Watch: George Hill
Something’s up. Hill, a dark horse Sixth Man of the Year candidate, has seen his impact muffled in the bubble so far, and it’s not immediately clear why. His league-leading three-point percentage has fallen a full point (down to 47.5%), as has his overall volume of threes attempted. He’s still facilitating for his teammates on offense and generally getting himself in the right spots at the right times, but his presence has not been as pronounced as we grew accustomed to earlier this season. The easy hypothesis is that he’s taken on way more responsibility to cover up for the absence of Eric Bledsoe (and the ball-handling challenges of Donte DiVincenzo and Sterling Brown), so once Eric gets back to full-strength we might see the old George again.
One team you rarely have to worry about playing hard is based out of South Beach, and it’s very much endemic of their organization. Between head honcho Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra, the Heat always bring the...er, heat. Furthermore, their roster is littered with young shot-makers (Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn are a few) and experienced wings (Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill) to throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Miami just bested the Boston Celtics (but fell short against the Raptors) and is technically in striking distance of the 3rd seed, but would need a ton of things to go their way to move up that far with so few games left to play.
The Bucks might catch a break with Miami’s availability: Jimmy Butler is ruled out with an ankle issue, and Goran Dragic is questionable with his own ankle injury.
Player to Watch: Bam Adebayo
There is no one player who can stop Giannis, but there are players who can act as a cornerstone of a defensive wall to repel his drives to the basket. Bam is one of those players; a 6’9”, 255 lb. forward with enough strength to play center but enough quickness to check wings. Moreover, he’s a hub of Miami’s offense (averaging 5.1 assists/game), and his all-around impact earned him his first All Star berth earlier this year. Luckily for us, he doesn't take all that many threes, and he makes even fewer of them, so he’s not likely to get hot from outside...just likely to swing the ball ahead of the defense for one of his teammates to do so.