Well, that’s not how Bucks fans saw this one unfolding. In a game that had nothing go their way, they fell to the Miami Heat in Game 1 by a 130-117 score.
The Bucks came out of the gates sluggish early on, taking a lot of time to find their footing. Miami kept slowly building up their lead and before you knew it, they were up by double-digits. This was thanks to seven first quarter turnovers by the Bucks along with some ice-cold shooting from deep (2-of-9). In addition to those stats, both Giannis and Jrue Holiday picked up two early fouls, resulting in them heading to the bench. Miami owned a 33-24 lead after one quarter of play.
Giannis would go back to the locker room after receiving padding and giving it a go, as he still appeared to be stiff out on the court. Milwaukee would still fight their way back into it, slicing things to just a single point deficit. However, the Heat went on a run to get separate things by double-digits again. Late in the second, it was announced that Giannis would be out of the game with a lower back contusion. To make things worse for the Bucks, the Heat carried a 68-55 lead into the locker room at half.
Injuries hit the Heat as well, as they began the second half without Tyler Herro, who broke his hand. Milwaukee would cut into the deficit numerous times and get within single digits, but could never break through. The Heat just always had an answer. A Duncan Robinson 3-pointer served as a backbreaker to close out the period, as it gave the Heat their biggest lead of the game. This was after the Bucks had a chance to slice the deficit to three with 56 seconds left. Headed into the fourth, Miami constructed a 102-88 advantage.
It seemed as if the Bucks would have one last-ditch opportunity to come back late in this one, but it never came. The Heat continued to always have an answer for every Milwaukee surge, capping off any momentum the Bucks generated. Miami kept sinking backbreaking three after backbreaking three, and things ultimately tumbled into a 130-117 victory for them.
Jimmy Butler served as the game-leading scorer, putting forth a magnificent outing of 35 points, 11 assists, and five rebounds.
Khris Middleton was the leading scorer for the Bucks, concluding his efforts with 33 points.
Milwaukee will look to rebound Wednesday night at Fiserv Forum in Game 2. The big question will be the health of Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose status will surely be tracked closely in the coming days.
Giannis’ status remains a question mark moving forward.
Antetokounmpo would only tally ten minutes before getting sidelined due to a lower contusion. He tried giving it a go, but couldn’t muster enough to stay out there. Postgame, the first question that Bud was asked was about his status, to which he said the x-rays were clear and that they’ll continue to monitor. He followed up by saying that after seeing him back out there on the floor, it was clear that he wasn’t moving right and didn’t look comfortable or confident. He said that pulling him was the right thing to do. As of right now, his status for Wednesday remains uncertain and I anticipate it will remain so until Bud’s pre-game presser that night.
It’s tough to when playoff games with that shooting.
As the first quarter began, so did the Bucks’ shooting woes. And as things progressed, so did their woes. It seemed as if they’d rebound, but that never came. It also seemed as if the Heat would regress — that also never came. When the dust settled for both teams, Milwaukee’s 3-point percentage read 24.4% (11-of-45) while Miami’s sat at 60% (15-of-25). It wasn’t just the stats that told a story, but the timeliness of them all too. Every time the Bucks made it close, the Heat had an answer. They just couldn’t get over the hump. This definitely seems like it could be a shooting outlier. We’ve seen a similar scenario for the Bucks occur numerous times before. However, it’ll be imperative for them to clean up this area if they want to knot the series up Wednesday night.
Jimmy Butler made life difficult for Milwaukee.
The Bucks opted to throw a plethora of bodies at Jimmy Butler, but none of them were Giannis. Antetokounmpo wouldn’t have of an opportunity to guard Butler, as he left very early in the game. However, the other players that were assigned to him didn’t do well. Bucks fans had hoped that Jae Crowder would’ve done better, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, he had a pretty poor outing, scoring just two points in 12 minutes played. He was one of the players who saw defensive action against Butler. Here’s Mike Budenholzer on his thought process:
Instead of putting Giannis on Jimmy Butler, Mike Budenholzer opted to put Jrue Holiday, Wesley Matthews, and Jae Crowder on him instead. Here's his thoughts on that defensive assignment: pic.twitter.com/2a7xTcQ5Zq— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) April 17, 2023
That thought process didn’t work too well, as Butler exploded for 35 points. The Bucks will need to do a better job defensively against him Wednesday night, otherwise they’ll be in severe trouble.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- The Heat got Milwaukee in foul trouble early on. First, they got Holiday for two — and then Giannis. That seemed to set a tone in a way. They did so by earning charges, with the one that was earned by Kevin Love on the Giannis injury causing controversy. It occurred just after Ja Morant left injured against the Lakers in a very similar manner, raising thoughts on if that type of play should be removed from basketball. Given that this play took out two of the NBA’s biggest stars in a span of a few hours, I’d assume this topic gets discussed amongst the league’s higher ups.
- Khris Middleton was the biggest bright spot for the Bucks. Right from the opening tip, he looked ready to go and proved that to be true, as he etched out 33 points on the afternoon. His 3-point shot wasn’t really there as he went just 2-of-7, but nearly every other part of his game was top-notch — especially his passing. Post All-Star break, he’s been magnificent in that department and his facilitation of the basketball was on display last night. He’s clearly making an impact on the offense in more ways than one and it’ll be imperative for him to have another strong game Wednesday night, regardless of if Giannis is out there or not.
- It was not a favorable night for Grayson Allen:
Grayson Allen was a total zero in the last 3 games before he got hurt in the regular season and he’s been a total zero again tonight. Herro has basically scored every time Allen has defended him, then disappeared when Allen is out.— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) April 16, 2023
- Bobby Portis continues to be Milwaukee’s folk hero. In the first half when the Bucks needed a jolt of energy, he provided it by getting the crowd fired up as he’s done the last two postseasons. I tweeted out that it’s absolutely insane how fast he can bring 17,500 people to their feet. It’s honestly a phenomenon.
- Brook Lopez was daring Bam Adebayo to shoot jumpers all night, and Bam made the Bucks pay for it. He kept getting opportunity after opportunity from around the free throw line. He ended up posting 22 points, the second-most on Miami. Here’s what Mike Budenholzer had to say regarding the defensive philosophy on him:
Bam Adebayo took advantage of Brook Lopez playing off him tonight, hitting free throw jumper after free throw jumper. It resulted in 22 points for him. Here's Mike Budenholzer on Milwaukee's defensive efforts against him: pic.twitter.com/QFEvCMhF9T— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) April 17, 2023
- Kevin Love turned back the clock in this one. He went 4-of-7 from beyond the arc and it seemed as if every one of his threes was a knife in the Bucks’ side. He provided the definition of a timely shot.
- If Giannis indeed can’t go Wednesday night in Game 2, Jrue Holiday’s offense will be crucial in helping the Bucks even the series up. Yesterday, it wasn’t there, as he shot just 6-of-18 from the floor and 2-of-9 from the perimeter.
- Last, this is quite the stat as we head into Game 2:
The Bucks are now 5-7 in Game 1s under Bud. Oddly enough though, the Bucks are 5-1 in series where they lose game 1 and only 3-2 in series when they win game 1— Mark Podskarbi (@MVP21) April 17, 2023