It’s time for the NBA Playoffs to begin, and we’ve got a grudge match for the first game as the Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks take on Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat.
The Bucks will be looking to avenge their 4-1 series loss against the Heat last year, where they barely looked like they belonged on the same court, especially when Antetokounmpo was hurt. They’re going to get their chance today.
HOME TEAM: Milwaukee Bucks (0-0, 0-0 at home)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Jrue Holiday
- SG: Donte DiVincenzo
- SF: Khris Middleton
- PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo
- C: Brook Lopez
The Bucks founds their form to close out the season, going 8-2 in their final ten games. Their last game, a loss, doesn’t really count though because they didn’t bother playing any of their regular starters.
Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly looked ready for war, having played in eight of those games and averaging 29.4 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.0 SPG and 0.9 BPG. Khris Middleton was his ever-reliable counterpart, also playing in eight games in the last ten while averaging 21.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG and 5.3 APG.
What the Bucks didn’t have last year, is Jrue Holiday, who has provided them a strong third cog in their three-wheeled attack. Playing in nine out of their games, he averaged 20.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 7.4 APG and 1 BPG.
Their strength lies in their team play, as they have eight players averaging double figures for the season. The Bucks are also fifth in team three-point percentage at 38.9%, and they’re going to need to move that ball around instead of hoping that The Greek Freak can bulldoze his way through defenses. The last two playoffs haven’t been kind to the Bucks when they’ve tried to rely on that.
Their regular season numbers are promising against the Heat, as they won two out of three and averaged 124.7 PPG, while shooting 48.9% from the field and 45.7% from beyond the arc.
The Bucks were 2-1 ATS against the Heat in the regular season, and hit the under twice.
ROAD TEAM: Miami Heat (0-0, 0-0 on the road)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Kendrick Nunn (day-to-day)
- SG: Duncan Robinson
- SF: Jimmy Butler
- PF: Trevor Ariza
- C: Bam Adebayo
While the Heat lost two out of three against the Bucks last season, it’s important to note that Miami were without their star and leader Jimmy Butler in all three contests. As we saw in last year’s playoffs, Jimmy Buckets is a true difference maker who can inspire his team to victories.
Butler was a wrecking crew against the Bucks in last year’s playoff series, and averaged 23.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.4 APG and 1.8 SPG in five games while shooting 53.2% from the field. He also went to the line an astounding 10.8 times a game and shot 85.2% from there.
Butler will need to get help from co-star Bam Adebayo, though. Their young center averaged 13 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.3 SPG and 1.0 BPG in three games against the Bucks this regular season. Against the Bucks last playoffs, he averaged 17.2 PPG, 12 RPG and 4.4 APG.
Kendrick Nunn averaged 16.3 PPG while Tyler Herro put up 15.7 PPG against the Bucks this season. Duncan Robinson is going to need to step it up in the playoffs, though, as he only averaged 10 PPG against Milwaukee.
With Butler in the lineup, though, everything changes. He’s a big-time player who is not afraid of any challenge, and he relishes tough competition.
It’s a hard game, and the Bucks are deserved favorites. It’s going to be tough to call one but I think the Heat cover a +4.5 spread.
The two teams will still be feeling each other out defensively, especially with Butler playing the Bucks for the first time this season. I’d take the over 226.5.