Folks, we are getting a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat. Last year, the Heat took down the top-seeded Bucks in five games. Can they pull off another stunning upset against the Bucks? Regardless of the results, it will be a fun series to watch.
NBA Playoffs Preview: Milwaukee Bucks vs Miami Heat
The Bucks starting frontcourt is very formidable with the combination of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Antetokounmpo is coming off another strong season after winning back-to-back MVPs. He averaged 28.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game during the regular season. Antetokounmpo will need to be a superstar if Milwaukee hopes to make a deep playoff run. However, he has struggled against the Heat defense in the past so that’s something to watch out for.
Middleton had another solid season as their second option on offense. He averaged 20.4 points, six rebounds, and a career-high 5.4 assists per game. As for the other frontcourt player in Brook Lopez, the Bucks will need him to knock down some threes and be a rim protector.
The Heat starting frontcourt is also very dangerous and consists of their two best players in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. For the Heat to be successful, they will need Butler’s strong two-way play if they want to make another long playoff run. During the regular season, he averaged 21.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and a league-leading 2.1 steals per game.
Like Butler, Adebayo had another strong season as well. He averaged 18.7 points, nine rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. In this series, Adebayo will be the primary defender on Antetokounmpo and look to slow him down. Miami also has another solid piece in Trevor Ariza as their three-and-D player at power forward position.
The Heat and Bucks both have very strong frontcourt players but the advantage goes to the Bucks by a thin margin. This is where the star matchups are between these teams.
Advantage: Milwaukee Bucks
During the offseason, the Bucks made a move to get Jrue Holiday in a blockbuster deal. That move has paid off up until now. Holiday had a solid regular season in his first year with the Bucks. He averaged 17.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Holiday will be a major X-factor should the Bucks hope to make a long playoff run.
The other backcourt starter for the Bucks will be Donte DiVincenzo. The Bucks will need him to knock down some shots and do the bulk of the dirty work whether it’s hustling for rebounds or loose balls.
As for the Heat backcourt, Coach Erik Spoelstra will likely start Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson. But he may tweak the starting lineup. Nunn’s playing time early in the season was pretty sporadic. He either gets starters minutes or does not play at all in a game. However, with Victor Oladipo out for the season, Nunn will have an important role to play with this Heat team.
With the Bucks being ranked second to last in opponent three-point percentage, Robinson may run wild out there being the Heat’s most prolific three-point shooter.
Advantage: Milwaukee Bucks
The Heat and the Bucks benches aren’t particularly both ranked in the bottom third in the league in bench scoring this year. However, the Heat have bench players who could potentially carry a team offensively for stretches during a game. Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro are those players. Both of them were very successful in the playoffs last season.
Another player that has contributed to the Heat’s recent success is the recently acquired Dewayne Dedmon. Miami needed some size and they brought in Dedmon to fill that void. His impact in the paint and the ability to rebound the ball has been beneficial for the Heat. Dedmon will see playing time because the Bucks are very big in the frontcourt.
On the other side, the Bucks have two prolific three-point shooters off the bench in Bobby Portis and Bryn Forbes. They have been the spark plugs off the bench for Milwaukee this season. Furthermore, both players shot over 45 percent from three during the regular season. The question is whether or not they can replicate that in the playoffs.
The Bucks also added another defensive bruiser in P.J. Tucker in a mid-season trade. He will draw a defensive assignment on Butler and look to slow him down.
Advantage: Miami Heat
Coaching and Intangibles
Mike Budenholzer has had several successful regular seasons as a head coach. However, those successful regular seasons haven’t translated into playoff success. The last couple of seasons have ended in bitter disappointment for the Bucks after having the best record in the league in both seasons. It remains to be seen whether or not the Bucks can redeem themselves, but if this year isn’t any different for Milwaukee, Budenholzer will likely be ousted from his coaching job.
On the other side, Spoelstra has won two championships and made five NBA Finals appearances as the head coach for Miami. He led the Heat to a Finals appearance last year but came up short against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Heat have always been a well-coached team under Spoelstra.
As for intangibles, the Heat have an excellent balance of good young players and veteran players who are capable leaders. While the Bucks are slightly more talented on paper, the Heat has more capable leaders. Furthermore, the Heat have NBA champions in Andre Iguodala and Udonis Haslem. Their leadership will be invaluable for the Heat players.
Advantage: Miami Heat
Final Prediction: Milwaukee Bucks in Seven
This will likely be one of those long playoffs series that will go down to the wire that could go either way. While the Bucks have the home-court advantage, the Heat have had their number in the past. However, with Holiday, this looks like a different Bucks team from last year. That will likely be the deciding factor in this series. As for the Heat, they are still a very pesky team that will fight to the end.
Main Image: Embed from Getty Images