Let’s just say this:
Jimmy Butler is just insane.
#1: More incredible first quarter heroics from Jimmy Butler.
Well, 22 points on 9 of 10 shooting would be a pretty good game for somebody in this league. But try a quarter, as that was Jimmy Butler’s line after 12 minutes of play. The one stretch that turned it around included: a Love pick and pop with the expectation of an Antetokounmpo switch turning into a dive and dunk on Giannis, a pull-up 3 as Holiday sags off, takes Antetokounmpo in the low post before converting on a tough right hand scoop, and a transition elbow jumper. Oh, by the way, this was a minute and a half span. He completely took over in that opening quarter and couldn’t miss, with anything he touched turning to gold. I often detail his polished schematic reads, but if I can be honest: the dude was just hooping at the highest level.
#2: The beams pointing right at Bam Adebayo as Butler searches for help.
The first half stat-line: 2 points and 2 turnovers? A -11 in only 10 minutes of play? It was just bad, when it comes down to the level they needed from him. As I detailed before the game, they were intentional about running plays for him to start. Those first two possessions were a Adebayo elbow isolation into a turnover and a low box screen into a block at the rim by Brook Lopez. Just brutal results. He then picked up a pair of fouls and had to exit early, but that was far from the biggest problem. He just wasn’t acting as a primary offensive option, as that mid-range space wasn’t being utilized in that drop. This team simply won’t let him attack, and it seems to tap into the mental side for him. Just a bad first half, as Butler had to carry along his Minnesota third stringers.
#3: Role player evaluation: Duncan Robinson adding some offense, Haywood Highsmith bringing the defense.
As I detailed earlier, there wasn’t much help being thrown around from the Miami Heat early. But there were two guys that did their job. Duncan Robinson came out firing like birthday Duncan, as his shot just seems as confident as ever. First play of second quarter was a DHO for Robinson, blending into some high PnR stuff for pull-ups. He was doing the needed things as that spacer and filler for Tyler Herro. As for Haywood Highsmith, he entered after that Bam Adebayo foul trouble, and man was he doing the dirty-work. Hounding in the zone, defending post-ups, rebounding. He was playing a role that the Heat desperately need usually, but wasn’t as noticeable as the flashy scoring stuff just wasn’t there as a unit. But just two guys to keep some tabs on.
#4: The Bucks front-court….
The defensive front-court combo of Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the toughest to face in the league. Lopez just planted under the rim for rim protection as Antetokounmpo lurks weak-side for lengthy help. But well, they were even more noticeable offensively in this one. Should be noted that Antetokounmpo didn’t look to be favoring that back at all, aside from his sideline standing instead of sitting down with the potential of it locking up. His transition play was dominant, his half-court attacks put major pressure on Miami, and it opened up his big man partner. Lopez was the guy who really tore them up at all three levels. Efficiency from deep, activity around the rim offensively, and just a force for most match-ups. Each game has been a new story, but when those guys are that efficient, it’s tough to overcome…
#5: The fourth quarter…
As we sat back watching a Lowry-Vincent-Robinson-Martin-Zeller lineup to start the 4th, the feeling was in the air that this game had passed far from their grasp. But then you hear those words: “Jimmy Butler checks into the game.” A few floaters later, midway through the fourth, you kind of looked up saying to yourself: “how is this only a 9 point game?” With 6:30 left on the clock, Heat call timeout following Butler coming up with the fumble in the bottom of the pile. As Lowry throws it in with 2 seconds on the shot clock, he throws it right to a plethora of Bucks defenders who go in the other direction. Sums it up well. Even with that gut-punch, it’s somehow an 8 point after a Butler pull-up in transtion? Off a miss, he drives on Middleton to the cup: and-1. 5 point game. Just insanity. Back to defense, Lowry on Holiday strips it away, Martin grabs it, and gets fouled off a strong attack. 3 point game. Martin bangs a foot on the line jumper in the corner with the place going nuts, as Miami forces a turnover into a Butler dunk. Heat up 1. How? I have no clue. Antetokounmpo comes back with an and-1, as Martin swings right back with a triple. With energy shifting back and forth, a cold blooded three by Holiday puts them up 2. Fast forward to the Butler takeover: pull-up 3 after pull-up 3. Heat up 3 with 58 seconds left. And Butler closes it out. Heat up 3-1.
Join us for Heat-Bucks Game 5 on Wednesday night. Sign up for free on Playback.