Heat vs. Bucks Preview: Can Miami Keep Slowing Down Giannis?

The Miami Heat have played arguably the toughest defense of anyone in the league against Giannis Antetokounmpo -- can they repeat it Wednesday?

Heat vs. Bucks Odds

Heat Odds +4.5
Bucks Odds -4.5
Over/Under 227
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Bucks swept the Heat in the playoffs last year as revenge for their 2020 bubble defeat.

But Miami added Bucks killer Kyle Lowry and former Buck PJ Tucker, and is 2-1 so far this season vs. the reigning champs.

Now in the final season series matchup, with a chance to secure tiebreaker and further their position as a potential No. 1 seed, can Miami do it again? Or will the Bucks wake up and play with the focus that’s been missing for much of the season?

Heat Have Slowed Down Giannis Before

Kyle Lowry is out for a personal reason. Markieff Morris and Victor Oladipo remain out, and Caleb martin is questionable.

The Heat have had as much success against Giannis Antetokounmpo as any team in the league. Since Jimmy Butler joined Miami, Antetokounmpo has the second-worst effective field goal percentage vs. his expected mark against Miami of any opponent he’s faced.

Their use of switch pick and roll schemes and zone (fourth-most in the league) messes with how the Bucks try and create gravity at the rim to open up the perimeter.

Miami has held the Bucks to the sixth-lowest offensive efficiency of any team.

Even without Kyle Lowry, the Heat are able to layer their defense to slow down Giannis and draw enough charges against him.

The only real problem with Miami is that their halfcourt offense can stall. It was worse than 15th early in the season but has improved to 11th overall.

Miami is also 12-6 ATS this season as an underdog. It’s rare to get them in this spot. They’re also 12-5 ATS vs. teams with a win percentage of 59% or better (Bucks are at 59%). Without Lowry this season, they are just 7-6-1 ATS, however.

Bucks Difficult to Figure Out

Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton and George Hill are all out.

Milwaukee is difficult to cap this season. In the games they look good, they dominate. The rest of the time, they are largely underwhelming. Trying to determine the difference between their coasting and genuinely struggling is a tedious, unsolvable problem.

This season against teams with a win percentage of 60% or better, the Bucks are just 6-9 ATS and 4-6 as a favorite.

The Bucks roster changes have caused some issues. They moved Donte DiVincenzo and Rodney Hood to add Serge Ibaka, but then Connaughton got hurt, limiting their wing options.

Milwaukee’s defense is surprisingly vulnerable this season. Brook Lopez’ absence is evident, but there are other issues under the hood.

Heat-Bucks Pick

So Miami’s pedestrian offense meets an overvalued Bucks defense, and Milwaukee’s offensive firepower faces a defense that’s gotten the better of them more times than not outside of the first-round series last season.

I have this projected at Bucks -3.9 based on the halfcourt and transition matchups, and as a pick ’em based on power ratings.

Even without Lowry, I think Miami has the defensive formula to slow down the Bucks in a regular season game. I’ll take the Heat with the points, and I lean under as well.

Pick: Heat +4.5, under 227