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Milwaukee vs. Miami Game 3: Bucks Flex Their Muscles in South Beach

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Talk about domination.

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Miami Heat Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks dominated the Miami Heat for all four quarters en route to earning a 113-84 victory in Game Three and are now one victory away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Three Observations

With Jrue Holiday at the helm, the sky is the limit for the Bucks. Both Holiday and the Bucks went through a few growing pains throughout the 2021 season as he tried to get acclimated with the system and playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, us Bucks fans, and I mean ALL of us, we’re eagerly waiting to see his impact this postseason. Well, folks, we might have underestimated how big of a difference he makes. This might have been the easiest 19/3/12 (7-of-10 shooting) performance of his career. Not to mention, he finished plus-41 (!!!!!!) in 34 minutes. Now, I am not the biggest fan of the plus-minus metric, but in this case, it matched the eye test 100%. Jrue was knifing through Miami’s “defense” throughout the contest and finding open shooters/cutters. Defensively, he was stout as advertised, locking up whoever he was matched up against. The way in which he carries himself on the floor is impressive and he is constantly making the right pass or cutting to the basket for an easy deuce. His left-handed reverse layup in the second quarter was a thing of beauty, too. What more is there to say?

Khris Middleton has been rock solid all series long. His night got off to a good start as he converted a four-point play to open up the scoring. Miami simply has no answer for him defensively, it’s either hope and pray Duncan Robinson stays in front of him, or risk moving Jimmy Butler onto him which will open up even more space for Giannis to operate. We know Antetokounmpo reaps the benefits of playing alongside Jrue, but the biggest beneficiary from the acquisition might be Middleton. With Eric Bledsoe out of the equation, it opens up a variety of ways for Khris to get buckets. Moreover, I have been impressed with how he has distributed the basketball against the Heat. Milwaukee has operated like a well-oiled machine when both he and Holiday initiate the offense. His defensive effort on Jimmy Butler at times throughout this series has been admirable and we saw him do a solid job at staying in front of Jimmy during the bubble last year. He played 34 minutes and contributed 22 points, eight rebounds, and five assists (plus-26).

Bobby Portis and Bryn Forbes are the best free-agent signings in Milwaukee Bucks history. Without any context, that is a laughable statement, but it’s true...at least in my opinion. Going from Kyle Korver, George Hill, and Sterling Brown to Forbes/Portis has elevated Milwaukee’s ceiling exponentially. While it wasn’t quite the game two explosion from Forbes, he made his presence felt immediately off the bench. The Heat have no choice but to have a defender in front of him at all times which also opens up the lane offensively. In essence, Bryn doesn’t need to score to have an impact because opposing defenses need to account for him at all times. He added 11 points in 20 minutes. As for Bobby Portis, he has been a godsend. The Bucks have needed a tough alpha presence on the floor and that’s exactly who Bobby is. Up 20, or down 20, he will mean mug and flex right on you after a made dunk or layup. Additionally, he is very smooth when getting to the basket and his running push shot has been a nice surprise on top of his elite three-point shooting. 11 and nine boards in 17 minutes will certainly do!

Bonus Bits

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo was largely quiet by his standards, but the fact that the Bucks did not need much from him offensively and still blow out Miami makes me VERY happy. It was a 17/17/5 performance from the Greek Freak in only 33 minutes.
  • Brook Lopez has Bam Adebayo shook. I have been one of Brook’s biggest critics this season, but he has answered the call and then some this series. He is forcing Bam into tough decisions and is making him think twice about shooting a floater or backing him down. Veteran savviness, perhaps? This is no easy matchup for Brook and seeing him play at this high of a level must have the Bucks beaming with confidence.
  • P.J. Tucker...but as good as advertised! What a difference maker he has been in his short tenure in a Bucks uniform. Like Portis, he brings the aurora and toughness to the floor and refuses to let the Bucks be pushed around. His defensive effort on Jimmy Butler has been tremendous, too. A ton to like in this situation, though.
  • Miami going from Jae Crowder to Trevor Ariza has been a huge downgrade, to say the least. He has been borderline unplayable this series and Milwaukee exploiting him has forced coach Spo to look at other options off the bench. The only issue for Miami, though, is there really are none.
  • The Bucks have more weapons, but has coach Budenholzer out-coached Spo? Just something to think about...