The Milwaukee Bucks will play their last home game of the regular season Saturday night, closing it out against potential Playoff opponent, the Miami Heat.
Where We’re At
Giannis Antetokounmpo went for dunk after dunk against the Indiana Pacers in Milwaukee’s 142-133 victory. He poured in 40 points and 15 rebounds on a ridiculous 14-18 shooting performance. Three other starters had 20+ too, and once again, the Bucks needed it. As the season winds down, they continue to put up lackluster defensive efforts against non-elite opponents, a trend that I’m chalking up more to the late stages of the season than a sign of an impending implosion. I’m not sure this team will be able to put it all together defensively in the postseason, but here’s hoping these prove to be anomalies. We’ll find out soon. This game should offer a solid test given that the Heat are 8-2 in their last 10 and just beat Philly, 106-94.
Miami, as is usually the case, is the team no first round opponent wants to see, at least among the options beneath the big three. With their full suite of players, they’ve started surging in recent games led by Jimmy Butler. He’s averaging 24.1 points, 6.9 boards and 7.1 assists, all while only shooting 24% from beyond the arc. The Bucks haven’t played the Heat since the opening week of the season when they played them back-to-back in South Beach. Miami didn’t have Butler for either of those games, but was still able to split the series after allowing the Bucks to score 144 in the first matchup. That was the game where TNT essentially cut away for an entire half, if you’d forgotten. Miami is up to the 7th ranked defense in the league, but just the 19th ranked offense. Should be a good litmus test for the Bucks defense, as well as whether their offense can still flourish against the Heat.
Axel Toupane is the only Buck out, while the Heat are without Victor Oladipo, who underwent season-ending surgery, and Kendrick Nunn is questionable.
Player to Watch
I’m curious who Butler will guard (I’m guessing Khris Middleton), but I also want to see how he tries to attack Jrue Holiday, who I’m presuming will get the first crack at the veteran forward. Butler is a foul magnet and the Heat are top-ten in terms of FT rate, but Milwaukee is the best at not allowing opponents to get to the line. Should be a fascinating chess match to see how Butler tries to use his strength against Holiday’s generally immovable frame.
Game 71: Against Miami, the Bucks will...
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