Behind a 37-point third quarter, the Milwaukee Bucks took a decisive 3-0 lead in their first-round series by blowing out the Miami Heat for the second time, this time at the “hostile” AmericanAirlines Arena.
Just like in game 2, Milwaukee’s defense immediately set the tone, holding Miami to just 14 in the first quarter. The Bucks weren’t scoring much to start either, though. While they made only one of their first nine 3PA, they led 26-14 after one. Even while Brook Lopez was on the bench being spelled by Portis/Giannis, Milwaukee’s rim defense was still outstanding. Midway through the second, Erik Spoelstra threw a zone at the Bucks and they’d respond with 9-0 run that pushed the lead to 18. They’d flirt with 20, but ultimately led by 13 at the midpoint as Miami’s offense showed signs of life late in the quarter, after scoring just 5 points in their first 8 minutes. The Heat shot just 31.1% from the field in the first half, though the Bucks weren’t that much better at 40.4% as they struggled to hit shots in the second outside of that run.
Miami kept the lead around the 14 point mark until a Khris Middleton-led lineup took over in the latter part of the third. Milwaukee caught absolute fire and built a 26 point lead behind some hot perimeter shooting: they shot 7/11 from deep in the quarter as compared to 5/20 in the entire first half, and entered the fourth ahead 86-60. While the Heat were able to cut the lead to around 20 a couple of times, the Bucks quickly stomped on their throats and ran the lead up to 32 with 4:35 to go. Mike Budenholzer went to his victory formation at that point and Milwaukee is now one game away from sweeping the Heat. Did even the most optimistic Bucks fans see this coming?
The Heat shot a paltry 37.8% in this game and managed a mere 84 points, thanks to both frigid shooting and suffocating Bucks defense. Meanwhile, Milwaukee shot a scorching 57.1% (plus 8/16 from downtown) in the second half as they took control. Khris Middleton led Milwaukee 22 points on 8/16 shooting, with Jrue Holiday right behind him (19 points and 12 dimes), and Giannis Antetokounmpo shot 50% in a 17/17 performance. A true team effort with 6 Bucks in double figures. Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 19 on 7/17 from the field, managing just 3 points in the second half.
Stat That Stood Out
Once again, Milwaukee destroyed Miami on the offensive glass, racking up 11 to the Heat’s 7 after notching an insane 18-9 advantage in game 2. The 6 offensive boards the Bucks pulled down in the first quarter were particularly important as they struggled to score in the first half.