Won’t make the playoffs? First round exit? No shooters? Jimmy can’t lead a team?
It only took the Miami Heat 9 games to gain the respect and attention of the national media. The Miami Heat are going to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2014 when Lebron, Wade, and Bosh looked to three-peat. Although they were deemed “underdogs” this whole season, those close to the Heat organization and the loyal fan base knew this Heat team had a high ceiling.
In Game 1, Milwaukee had limited answers to Miami’s versatility, athleticism, and toughness. Jimmy Butler was clearly the best player on the court scoring 14 of his 40 points in the 4th quarter. Veteran point guard Goran Dragic added 27 points on 60% from the field. Bam Adebayo was a monster on the boards, grabbing 17 rebounds and limiting MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to 18 points. Your stars win you games. This was exactly the case in Game 1.
Game 2 was left to the officiating. Jimmy Butler sealed the game on two free throws after getting fouled on a jump shot as time expired leading to a 116-114 Heat win. This game was pure physicality, 71 foul shots were attempted, including two flagrant fouls and a technical. This was a grind out game and Miami’s versatility was on display with 7 players scoring in double digits.
Next was the 4th quarter comeback. Miami outscored the Bucks 40-13 in the fourth quarter of Game 3. Miami’s defense was stellar in the closing minutes, forcing the Bucks into a prolonged scoring drought. They shot 0-10 from the three and 6-23 overall in the 4th quarter. Jimmy Butler put the team on his back scoring 17 of his 30 in the 4th. Miami also had great contributions from Bam Adebayo who posted a 20 point double double and Jae (Allen) Crowder who splashed in 5 three pointers.
Milwaukee rallied without MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 4 after he suffered a right ankle sprain in the 2nd quarter that kept him sidelined the rest of the series. Miami could have taken advantage of this and swept, however, it was obvious they took their foot off the gas. They lost their intensity from the first three games, resulting in their sole loss of the playoffs in overtime. Miami had no struggles scoring the rock, however, their defense slipped. The Bucks shot 49% from the field behind Khris Middleton’s 36 points. This was a nice humbling for Heat fans and a great gut check for Miami.
Bounce back! The Heat closed out the series against the Giannis-less Bucks. This game was an all-around effort with rookie Tyler Herro shining in their 103-94 win. Miami had 6 players in double digits, a theme that is becoming more and more common for this Heat team. The bench took the reins of this game with stellar performances from Kelly Olynyk and Andre Iguodala, in addition to Herro.
Miami is not satisfied yet, and the goal is obviously a championship. Miami will play either the Celtics or the Raptors next round. This series proved that Miami is a legit contender for a championship. Between their all stars, sharpshooters, defensive flexibility, bench scoring, and grit, Miami has all the tools needed to compete with the best.