How Will the Match-ups Look Between the Heat and Bucks?

The individual match-ups between the Heat and Bucks first round series has become a hot topic leading up to Saturday, but the truth is that there isn’t one set solution.

Especially an Erik Spoelstra coached team, there will not be only one guy thrown at the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, as well as Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. Speaking of Holiday, this gives the Bucks some options as well, after they lacked that type of versatility in the series a year ago.

Anyway, let’s start off with how the Heat will look to defend the Bucks match-up wise. And by the way, this may not be the initial coverage, but I do feel that this will be the number one adjustment that Miami will find themselves in for a good portion of the game:

Kendrick Nunn on Donte DiVencenzo

Duncan Robinson on Khris Middleton

Jimmy Butler on Giannis Antetokounmpo

Trevor Ariza on Jrue Holiday

Bam Adebayo on Brook Lopez

Many expect Trevor Ariza to step into that Antetokounmpo defending slot, which I think is the most likely option to begin the series, but there’s a reason Miami adjusts into this base.

As explained in my latest piece on Miami’s defensive scheme, Ariza and Robinson are going to find themselves as the primary blitzers on Holiday and Middleton, which is why it makes sense for them to match-up automatically.

Robinson’s improved defensive abilities combined with his length make it possible to stick him on Middleton and await the double, while Ariza’s strength is guarding smaller players. This allows Butler and Adebayo to play as the free safety at times and play in transition when hitting the passing lanes.

Of course, the match-up many would look at here is Butler on Antetokounmpo, due to the fact you may not want your best offensive weapon to have that type of weight on his shoulders. Spoiler alert: Butler wants that weight on his shoulders and will take that match-up 10 out of 10 times.

Once again, things are going to change over and over again throughout the series, and Miami’s switching means that mismatches will be fluid. But in a tight game, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is what we see from Miami in the half-court.

Now, on the other side of the ball, the Bucks have some extra guys to throw at Miami this time around. The consensus seems to be that Holiday will find himself on Butler from the start, which I expect as well, but I don’t believe that’ll be who he guards as the game progresses. Here’s how I believe it plays out:

Holiday on Robinson

DiVencenzo on Nunn

Antetokounmpo/Middleton on Butler/Ariza

Lopez on Adebayo

This prediction doesn’t have many surprises, but the reason I bundled up Butler and Ariza is due to those two guys flipping back and forth. If Holiday is guarding Robinson, many believe that it will just be the normal Middleton on Butler, but I feel Milwaukee’s counter would be to try out Antetokounmpo on him.

Middleton is capable of guarding a stretch 4 in Ariza, which makes this option even more possible.

But the head of the snake in this assignment would be Holiday guarding Robinson, and there’s a reason that I see that happening. If you asked me Holiday’s biggest defensive strength, I would immediately point to his ability to constantly navigate around screens without getting lost. And that description points directly to Robinson.

He will be an even bigger part of Miami’s offense in this series, as shown in my offensive breakdown, since he’s the one who will get Miami into their base sets. To that point, it just seems obvious that’ll be the route they go as the series moves forward.

This has become an interesting debate over the last few days, but as mentioned earlier, it’s semi-useless to a degree with the amount of cross matches that will occur. Milwaukee shifting into a switching scheme at times means that Butler will be able to handpick who he wants guarding him, which makes this series so interesting for him.

As much as the focus is on the starting lineup here, the real exploit should occur with both bench units, since Miami will need Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro to pick up the slack again, as the Bucks adding Bryn Forbes, PJ Tucker, and Bobby Portis means they feel good about their second unit as well.

The match-up discussion is pure, but the main match-up that will not be debated in this series is Erik Spoelstra and Mike Budenholzer. If you don’t think Spo has completely different adjustments up his sleeve for this series, you are completely wrong.


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