I kid with the subhead, but the Milwaukee Bucks coming out for a competitive game, possibly even a win, against a Miami Heat squad that’s ranked first in the East would provide a nice boon to our collective spirits heading into the home stretch. I’m not sure any regular season win brings more satisfaction than a Heat victory, with Philadelphia a close possible second.
Where We’re At
The Bucks brushed off that dispiriting Brooklyn Nets fourth quarter collapse by buzzing the Charlotte Hornets to the tune of a 130-106 victory. James Borrego’s club got off to a hot start behind the arc, but quickly cooled as Milwaukee pummeled them in transition and the Bucks offense carved their iffy defense to shreds. They played with pace, even in the halfcourt, where they seemed intent on keeping some semblance of motion going to find the gaps in the Hornet’s scheme. They were almost everywhere, with no starter having to go more than 30 minutes, and Giannis Antetokounmpo posting 26 points, 16 rebounds, six assists, two steals and four blocks. His rim protection looked as deadly as ever in the first half. Hopefully it was a sign of things to come, as they’ll need every bit of momentum possible to dissect this top-five Miami defense.
It feels like it’s been forever since the Bucks faced off against Erik Spoelstra and company, and indeed their last matchup was a 113-104 loss on December 8 when the Heat’s B-team blasted the Bucks, with Caleb Martin at 28, Max Strus at 16, KZ Okpala (since gone) netting 10 points and old friend PJ Tucker going for 15. The season series stands at 2-1 Heat, so a victory would be helpful for tiebreaker purposes, and to avoid the Heat stans coming at us. Credit to Miami though, they’ve cobbled together yet another impressive season while many of their principles have missed chunks of the season. Inevitably they always seem to find the diamonds in the rough, but now they’re back to nearly full strength.
They’re on a four-game win streak, their latest a 112-99 win over the Chicago Bulls. Bam Adebayo has returned from injury and apparently looked just fine, getting over whatever trepidation seemed to ail him against Brook Lopez in last year’s Playoffs. I look forward to seeing how the Bucks try to pierce through their shifting defensive front, and whether the Heat’s offense is robust enough to carve through a Bucks D that’s been spotty since the New Year.
Pat Connaughton, George Hill and Brook Lopez are all out on the Bucks side. The Heat will be without Kyle Lowry, Markieff Morris and Victor Oladipo, with Caleb Martin listed as questionable.
Player to Watch
I’m going to cheat and put Giannis here, but I think it’s for valid reasons. His last outing in that eminently winnable game against Miami, Tucker held him to just 15 points on 4-13 shooting and he looked as out of sorts as you could imagine. He didn’t play in Milwaukee’s lone win against the Heat and he had just 15 in the loss to the Heat near the start of this season. Yes the Bucks humiliated this team in last year’s Playoffs, but that series certainly wasn’t Giannis at his world-destroying best. He dominated with the pass, and his teammates paid it off, but he didn’t score that efficiently. Here’s a chance to get in a groove against a Heat team that’s always given him some fits.
Game 63: Against Miami, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)