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NBA Bubble Wrap: Bucks-Heat Preview

The Eastern Conference favorite Bucks square off against a gritty Heat team led by Jimmy Butler. Do they have the firepower to create another early playoff exit for Milwaukee?

Jaylen Brown by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

NBA Bubble Wrap: Bucks-Heat Preview


Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes

While some want the NBA Players to “shut up and dribble,” they have an incredibly powerful platform they are leveraging to discuss social justice. I encourage you to jump in and some of the Turf’s thoughts on the topic, including Terry Cudmore’s Celtics-Raptors preview:


I have all the respect in the world for these guys, who are putting their careers on the line to make a stand. It’s sad that we need to rely on professional athletes to push for change and not, y’know, elected officials but alas, that’s where we are in 2020.

With that said, let’s jump in and look at the series between #1 seed Milwaukee Bucks and the #4 seed Miami Heat, which the Heat lead after winning Game 1, 115-104.


FIVE THINGS THAT NEED TO HAPPEN FOR THE BUCKS TO WIN THE SERIES

Giannis acts like the best player in the world

When Giannis is going, he’s absolutely unstoppable. There’s no one who can man up on him and when he’s going to the rim, he’s surrounded by shooters that defenses need to respect. In Game 1, we saw a shockingly passive Giannis, which didn’t work for Milwaukee. He needs to own every series for the Bucks to meet their lofty expectations.

Khris Middleton pretends he’s playing Boston

Over the past few years, Celtics fans have seen more of Khris Middleton in the playoffs than they’ve ever cared to. In 2019, Middleton averaged 20 point/game on 47+% shooting from deep. In 2018, it was 24 points/game on 61% from deep (yes, you read that right) and 60% overall.

When he’s on, Middleton is lethal and his length creates mismatches on the defensive end. If he can score at a consistent clip, it’ll be tough to keep up with the Bucks.

Milwaukee makes Miami earn every bucket

Miami is a gritty, well-coached team that often outplays their “on paper” talent. Jimmy Butler can take over a game and the Dragic/Adebayo combo needs to be respected.

But Milwaukee has length at every position, which makes it hard for opposing teams to work in the paint. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, Miami BOMBS from deep, posting the 2nd best FG% beyond the arc this season. Milwaukee will need to force Miami’s shooters inside and not let them catch fire outside. If they can do that, Miami will struggle to put up the points to compete with Giannis and Co.

The backcourt steps up

Since early in the bubble, Eric Bledsoe has fought a hamstring injury and George Hill has been pushed into the starting role. Both are serviceable point guards with documented success on playoff teams. The reality is that these guys don’t need to be outstanding but a combined 20 points and 8-10 assists will make this team hard to control.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo continues to be the best hype man in the game

Probably my second favorite “sign my brother” roster spot next to the Dragic brothers…

FIVE THINGS THAT NEED TO HAPPEN FOR THE HEAT TO WIN THE SERIES

Jimmy Butler plays with a chip on his shoulder

People often sleep on Jimmy Butler, given his propensity for shooting his way out of town on what should be contending teams. We forget the talent behind the ego but as he showed in Game 1, he’s (still) the real deal.

Butler is an elite two-player that can guard almost any position on the floor. He gets under the skin of opposing stars and makes them pay on both end. If we see the reemergence of the Jimmy Butler we knew in Chicago, Milwaukee will have their hands full.

Limit Milwaukee’s secondary scorers

Milwaukee’s roster is built around Giannis. Everything they do is about him taking the ball to the rim and kicking-out to superior shooters. It’s a model that’s worked well for them.

However, this is a top-heavy team that relies on Giannis, Middleton, and Lopez to create the vast majority of their offense. Miami guards the 3-point line well and so if they can limit Milwaukee’s shooters, they should be competitive in every game.

Dragic is an effective facilitator

Miami plays true team basketball, where the total is greater than the sum of its parts. They get contributions from up and down their roster, led for much of the year by Goran Dragic. Defenses have to respect Dragic as a scorer, which takes the load off Butler of being the offensive focus. Whether through the pick-and-roll or a drive-and-kick strategy, Dragic will make this offense tick and can keep Milwaukee from keying in on Butler.

Miami leads with physicality

With all due respect, Miami is by no means a wildly skilled team. What they do have, however, is a ton of guys that play with grit and physicality. Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala, Bam Adebayo, and Justise Winslow are all big, imposing bodies that can put a hurt on guys that drive on them. If Miami can impose that physicality early, they can wear down on Milwaukee and may give themselves a puncher’s chance in a long series.

Jimmy Butler doesn’t pull a T’Wolves

Hard to imagine he’d pull his shenanigans with an over-performing Heat team, but, hey – a kid can dream, right? Quite possibly my favorite “This League” moment.


The Pick

I want to root for Miami in this series (and will) but Milwaukee likely has too much firepower for the Heat to keep up. But you can bet there will be few blowouts, as Miami’s 3-point shooting and tough defense will let them hang around with the presumptive Eastern Conference champs.

We’ll see the reemergence of Jimmy Butler and a competitive series that will lead to a lot of conjecture of every single marquis free agent joining Miami this offseason. With that said, this will go the distance – Bucks in 7.

Ryan grew up outside of Boston in Waltham, MA watching the Pats, Celtics, Sox and Bruins. Despite now living in the vastly inferior sports city of NYC, he remains a die-hard Boston sports fan and is often "that guy" in the bar ridiculing NY sports. Ryan works in tech and is the Co-Founder and President of the recently incorporated Emergent TheaterWorks in NYC, a non-profit theater company focused on producing new and underdone works.

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