The Milwaukee Bucks are halfway done with their to-do list in this first round playoff matchup against the Miami Heat. With two wins in two tries, Bucks fans are feeling fairly optimistic about this series getting closed out quickly, which makes this evening’s game vitally important to everyone’s level of confidence if they make it through to the next round.
Where We’re At
If the Bucks play like they’ve played thus far, Milwaukee should be in good position. Their offensive production may have vacillated wildly from Game One to Game Two, but their defensive performance has maintained a high level of performance. After averaging an effective field goal percentage of 0.546 for the season (good for 11th in the NBA), the Heat were limited to an eFG% of 0.465 in Game One and 0.451 in Game Two. For reference, each of these figures would be several points below the league-losing Orlando Magic’s season mark of 0.490. Even though they’re continuing to generate free throws, Miami’s struggles stem from shooting a woeful 39.8% on two-point shots in this series. Shout out to Brook Lopez for disrupting everything Miami wants to do inside.
On offense, the Bucks are likely going to settle somewhere in between the barren shooting wasteland that started the series and the barrage they laid on Miami on Monday. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday are each finding ways to out-produce their Heat counterparts, but the Game Two deluge of threes was largely due to Bryn Forbes and Pat Connaughton, meaning that there’s still room for improvements in efficiency elsewhere on the roster. Hard to believe, but it’s true!
On Miami’s side of things, it’s difficult to determine what the next successful move will be. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, All-NBA talents in their own right, have been stymied in part because neither one of them is a capable three-point shooter, and having two non-shooters share the floor allows Milwaukee ample breathing room on defense. As our friend from down under Kane Pitman noted in a recent episode of Locked On Bucks, a move that Erik Spoelstra may consider is starting Goran Dragic over Kendrick Nunn, but that would involve Dragic sharing the floor with Jrue Holiday more often, not less. Reportedly, Spo isn’t planning any changes, but Miami fans are already looking elsewhere across the league for shifts in the tide.
Player To Watch
The Heat are on ice for a number of reasons, but chief among them is the absent-in-all-but-human-form Bam Adebayo. Our SBNation sister site has a commenter that summarized Adebayo’s first two games like this:
Bam isn’t unaggressive or complacent or mad or scared or tired.
Bam is confused.
He doesn’t know what to do next. All Bam has done for two years is run the DHO/screenroll offense, which is predicated on having the opposing Middle pulled into all those ball actions. The Bucks just pulled the chair out from under him, and the whole theory of the Heat offense, with an innovative way to defend it. Sorry guys, I give real props to downtrodden Budenholzer here in recognizing Bam’s tendencies. But now it’s up to Spoelstra, not Bam, to counter somehow. After the final regular season game [versus the Bucks], I was asking how Spo was going to handle Lopez sagging 10 feet because it seemed to work. I haven’t seen any response at all.
The Heat can’t afford for Adebayo to do less in their offense, but it’s difficult to pinpoint what he has to do differently. Over the first two games, the Bucks’ front court has sagged as far off of Adebayo as they can without putting the rim between them. He’s a passable midrange shooter, but he’s not taking the open midrange shots that Milwaukee is giving him (and when he does, he’s missing, shooting only 34.6% from the field). So what does he do? He’s not a good three-point shooter, so moving away from the basket is questionable. He’s a great finisher at the rim, but driving into Brook Lopez with Giannis as a help defender isn’t a good recipe. Jimmy Butler might be Miami’s engine, but Bam is the transmission, and right now he’s all seized up.
Game Three: Against Miami, the Bucks will...
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