The Heat finished off their 4 game road trip in Milwaukee, and the Heat’s core guys came to play in comparison to last game in New York.
Jimmy Butler was a constant force offensively, yet so was Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Heat’s top guys were good, but that wasn’t good enough.
#1: The front-court size differences showing early.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez vs Bam Adebayo and Caleb Martin. Yeah, when looking at the height column of their player profiles, it’s a striking disparity. The early showing expressed that perfectly, as the Bucks offensive plan was strictly matchup based. Finding guys like Antetokounmpo over the top time and time again, as the shots at rim was insanely one-sides in that first quarter. The Heat’s primary first half run came when Antetokounmpo was on the sideline, which makes sense, but as I said before the game, the key to this game was going to be sitting back in zone. If they out-shoot you, it is what it is. But you can’t let the Bucks dictate matchups all day off switches. The Heat ended up tied at half, but there was still a clear need for front-court additions. Yes, that was plural.
#2: Tyler Herro controlling the offense big time early on.
After that opening explanation, you may be asking yourself: tied at half? Well I was asking myself that same question at many time stamps, but the answer in the second quarter was Tyler Herro. Even when Jimmy Butler’s crashing rim attempts were needed, Tyler Herro’s in-between game just kept saving the offense. Making quick decisions on when to utilize his favorite floater and when to stop and pop into the usual pull-up jumper. We know he likes this matchup for more reasons than it being his hometown with family in the crowd. He’s been vocal about loving this drop. His comfort was most noticeable, as he was playing extremely loose when roaming downhill or on the break. And when Herro’s playing freely, that’s when he’s at his best.
#3: So ummm, back-up big minutes were…something
Last game. Erik Spoelstra had the choice of playing Udonis Haslem or Dewayne Dedmon behind Bam Adebayo. His goal was to play them both, but ended up going with UD in that Knicks matchup. Fast forward to tonight, Dedmon was the one hitting the early scorer’s table. He went 0 of 4 in the first half. There was an incredible 60 second run he went on: a missed layup turned into an immediate takedown tackle for the foul. Shortly after, he pulled an in rhythm above the break triple that short rimmed. As much as I joke about it on social media, those seven minutes in that first half hurt. I mentioned front-court help early in this piece, but you just can’t be one big man injury away from this point.
#4: Jimmy Butler extremely engaged offensively in this one.
Jimmy Butler has this certain quality. It’s a switch. He can turn it on and off whenever he chooses, leading to incredible playoff runs when it matters most. A matchup that hasn’t always been his favorite is this drop coverage Bucks squad with the way they protect the rim, but that didn’t matter. He flipped his switch. Dominating on the downhill drives into tough bank shots, good in-between range play, and getting to the line when needed. He was seeking on-ball reps in that third quarter, which is needed from him in games like this. As I said Herro took control early on, Butler was silently taking over throughout. When his fingerprints are on games like this, you know in two areas: free throw attempts and defensively. He was extremely active in both categories, compared to his last performance in New York.
#5: More fourth quarter breakdowns…
As the time ticked in the fourth quarter with Jimmy Butler still not checking in, it felt like the Heat trailing by only 2 at the end of the third was the best it could get. Yet Bam Adebayo and company kept Miami in it heading up to the halfway mark, as Butler entered. The next issue that approached for the Heat: their constant shot making all night began to hit a wall. As the shot making dissolved, the Antetokounmpo game-plan will only go so far, as he just continued to battle to the free throw line on a ton of straight line drives. It’s simply an uphill battle when fighting past the size and shooting disadvantages. They put up a fight all the way til the end behind their top 3 guys, but it just wasn’t good enough. A summary of their season, a theme for the trade deadline.