The Milwaukee Bucks have not blinked ever since Khris Middleton hit the late winning basket in overtime of Game 1. While that game was close, they haven’t given the Miami Heat a chance to breathe ever since. They whipped them 132-98 in Game 2 and then put on another merciless display in Game 3 with a 113-84 victory that put them within a game of completing their revenge from last year’s 4-1 defeat in the second round.
They used excellent defense to force the Heat into another awful shooting night, as Miami shot 32 of 85 (37.6 FG%) from the field and 9 of 32 (28.1%) from the three-point line.
Though Miami scored the first bucket, it was Bucks all the way, as they finished the first quarter 26-14 and never looked back.
Milwaukee had a balanced effort from their Big Three again:
- Giannis Antetokounmpo: 17 PTS, 17 REB, 5 AST, 1 STL
- Khris Middleton: 22 PTS, 8 REB, 5 AST
- Jrue Holiday: 19 PTS, 3 REB, 12 AST
Thanks to the Greek Freak, they utterly dominated the boards, finishing with a 55-42 advantage. Of eight Bucks players to play 15 minutes or more, six of them scored in double digits, highlighting the great team basketball that they played.
Miami’s leader and heart and soul Jimmy Butler has been shockingly awful in this series. In three games so far, he’s averaging 15.5 PPG, 6.6 RPG and 6 APG (31.9 FG%, 27.2 3P%). The 46 points he’s scored over the first three games are barely ahead of the 40 that he dropped in Game 1 of their series against the Bucks last year. To put things in perspective, across the first three games last year, he averaged 27.6 PPG.
Bam Adebayo, Miami’s young star, hasn’t been great this series, either. He’s averaging 14 PPG, 7.6 RPG and 4.3 RPG (37.5 FG%). That’s not good enough for someone that’s meant to be the franchise center of the future.
The Heat have simply not done enough to counter the Bucks’ free-flowing offense, and have been stymied by their defense. The addition of Holiday looks to have really played dividends, as the havoc he’s capable of creating on both ends of the floor has opened up the game for Antetokounmpo and Middleton in ways that weren’t necessarily available to them last year.
Milwaukee deserve all the credit for their performance in the series so far, especially in the last two games. They’re certainly on a revenge tour after two-straight playoff heartbreaks, and it’s a good start so far.
They’ve also forced Jimmy Butler into unfamiliar territory, as this is the first time he’s found himself down 3-0 in a playoff series that he’s actively participated in:
- 2012: 1-0 start with Bulls, though Butler played in only three games (3, 4 and 6) and the Bulls lost 4-2 to the Sixers. This was the series that Derrick Rose tore his ACL in.
- 2013: 0-1 start with the Bulls against the Nets, but the Bulls won 4-3. Lost 1-4 in the next round to (ironically) LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
- 2014: 0-2 start with the Bulls against the Wizards, and bowed out 4-1.
- 2015: 3-0 start with the Bulls against the Bucks, before winning 4-2. Took a 2-1 series lead against the Cavaliers in the next round before losing 4-2.
- 2017: 2-0 start against the Celtics before losing four-straight to go out 4-2.
- 2018: 0-2 start with the Timberwolves against the Rockets before losing 4-1.
- 2019: 0-1 start with the 76ers against the Nets before winning 4-1. In the next round, they took on the eventual champion Toronto Raptors and took a 2-1 series lead before losing 4-3 in the same year that Giannis and the Bucks took at 2-0 lead and then fell 4-2 against the Raptors.
- 2020: 4-0 win with the Heat against the Pacers, 4-1 win against the Bucks, 4-2 win against the Celtics en-route to a 2-4 NBA Finals defeat against LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Bucks must certainly feel good about their play so far, especially against last year’s tormenter. They’ve flown relatively under the radar thanks to the 76ers and Nets taking up most of the headlines in the Eastern Conference, but they look like a legitimate threat this year.