The Miami Heat drop game three to the Bucks, reflecting how they played in the first two games in Milwaukee. Some of the same general issues loom, mostly due to the Bucks being a much different team from the one we saw a season ago. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game….
#1: The shooting woes continue for Miami.
A key for Miami in this series, when I previewed it a week ago, was the element of controlling the pace. And well, that pacing has been fully controlled by Milwaukee since the start of the series. That lack of pacing combined with a swarming Bucks defense leads to forced offense for Miami. We discussed taking advantage of the mid-range jumper, but not only the mid-range jumper. There’s been nothing else, and even when there’s been open looks generated, they just haven’t found the net. Aside from Jimmy Butler, everybody else was 8 for 33 from the field in the first half. Duncan Robinson didn’t have a shot make in the first half, which usually mirrors how the offense was flowing. Scoring 36 points in a half just doesn’t win you a playoff game, but it’s what occurred tonight.
#2: First half recap: Jimmy Butler.
When looking at the Heat’s lackluster first half, there was only one guy who was semi-clicking in that stretch, Jimmy Butler. 16 points on 50% shooting was his stat-line at the half, and a major reason for that was he was knocking down the shots being given to him. Everybody else was fighting to get to their usual spots that aren’t available, but Butler was making the shots when defenders went under screens. Not only from the mid-range area, but also behind the three-point line with two triples through the first 24 minutes of basketball. They got the aggressive Butler that many have been awaiting, but the supporting cast just couldn’t get anything going. Butler can only take them so far with his bully ball offensive mentality, but when shooters can’t make shots, it’s usually a long night.
#3: One play summed up the offensive side of the ball for Miami and defensive side for Milwaukee.
To continue on the offensive theme, there was one play that summed up that side of the ball for Miami. I’ve touched on shots not falling, but Milwaukee’s defense deserves credit. The play consisted of Dewayne Dedmon at the extended elbow, looking for somebody to hand it off to. There was only one issue with this: he couldn’t find a person to give it to on the perimeter. The Bucks do a tremendous job of denying off the ball, not allowing Miami to break free to flow into their usual actions and offensive sets. That play ended in Dedmon turning twice, then facing the basket for an uncomfortable jumper that clanked off the rim. Even on their home court and in front of their home crowd, they were playing on the Bucks terms, and that’s an issue.
#4: One of the many holes not filled for Miami.
It’s hard to magnify one position or player in this game and series for Miami since there have been so many issues. But one interesting element has been the four spot. I hate the Jae Crowder discussion since it’s semi-useless, due to Miami making the right decision by letting him walk. But it’s not him that they miss, it’s what he brought. Crowder was clearly playing above his head for Miami in the beginning of the bubble, but it was a major push for Miami in many games in that Milwaukee series. Now, Trevor Ariza gave them pretty good minutes to finish the regular season, but hasn’t played to that level in the post-season. Once again, pinpointing Ariza in these three games isn’t fair due to everybody struggling, but it is something that hasn’t carried over into the playoffs.
#5: Umm, why was Nemanja Bjelica the best player not named Jimmy Butler tonight?
Yeah, this headline will tell you how odd this game was for Miami. Coach Spo decided to throw Nemanja Bjelica into the mix, and he gave them better minutes than anybody not named Jimmy Butler. Some much needed triples, good looking play-making, and even some decent defensive possessions. Dedmon and Bjelica being two of the biggest positives in this series so far is quite interesting, since both were unexpected mid-season acquisitions. “Positive” may be a bit of a stretch since it reflects negatively against the rest of the supporting cast, but that’s just how this series has gone, and more specifically, game three.