2021 Playoffs: East First Round | Bucks vs. Heat

Bucks completely break down Heat in Game 2

Milwaukee couldn't miss and Miami's stars couldn't buy a bucket as the Bucks seized a 2-0 series lead.

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

The Bucks light it up from behind the arc as they take a 2-0 series lead.

It’s been said that every game in an NBA playoff series is different. And indeed, Game 2 of the first-round series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat was very different than Game 1. After shooting 5-for-31 from 3-point range two days earlier, the Bucks made twice as many 3s (they were 10-for-15) in a 46-20 first quarter on Monday night, cruising to a 132-98 victory that gave them a 2-0 series lead.

This series now features both the least efficient performance (Miami’s 107 points on 110 possessions in Game 1) and the most efficient performance (Milwaukee’s 132 on 97 in Game 2). Two very different games, but, most important, two wins for the Bucks.

Having survived a poor shooting performance on Saturday and dominated on Monday, it’s “so far, so good” in the Bucks’ quest to prove that they’re no longer a regular season team. And with a 2-0 series lead, they’ve been able to avoid the angst and panic that likely would have come otherwise.

Number to Know

4 — Jimmy Butler is not a very good shooter from outside 15 feet. Among 201 players who attempted at least 200 shots from outside the paint this season, Butler ranked 198th in effective field goal percentage on those shots (40.4%), making just 25 3-pointers in 52 games. But Butler remained a relatively efficient offensive player – he ranked 14th in true shooting percentage (60.7%) among 48 players with a usage rate of 25% or higher – because he got to the rim (where he shot 67%) and to the free throw line. Butler’s free throw rate of 56.5 attempts per 100 shots from the field was the fifth highest mark among 250 players (highest among non-centers) with at least 300 field goal attempts.

Effective field goal percentage = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
True shooting percentage = PTS / (2 * (FGA + 0.44 * FTA)))
Usage rate = Percentage of teams’ possessions used while on the floor

In Game 1, Butler shot 4-for-22, but at least had 10 free throw attempts in his 46 minutes. In Game 2, he had just four free throw attempts to go along with his 4-for-10 from the field. According to Second Spectrum tracking, Butler had 17 drives on Monday, nine more than any other player on either team. But most of those drives ended in nothing productive. Butler drew just one foul, scored just five points, and recorded just three assists on the 17 drives.

Game Recap: Bucks 132, Heat 98

Key Sequence

In scoring 46 first-quarter points, the Bucks scored on 18 of the 20 possessions in which they didn’t commit a turnover. They shot 18-for-25 and rebounded five of their seven misses. Save their six turnovers, it was a complete offensive performance.

After a turnover on the first play of the game, the Bucks scored 15 points on their next six possessions. At the same time, they were (again) keeping the Heat from getting to the basket. And so, while Milwaukee was making most of their shots and rebounding the ones they didn’t, Miami couldn’t keep up. The Heat scored just two points on their first seven possessions and were in an early double-digit hole that they would never climb out of.

A Bit of Film

It can be a make-or-miss league, and when Brook Lopez is hitting off-balance jumpers from the foul line, it may not be your night. But the Bucks were more purposeful with their offense on Monday, attacking the Heat’s weaker defenders and reaping the benefits. They went at Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, and Goran Dragic early and often to get layups and open shots.

After the Bucks had already built a 10-point lead, Khris Middleton set a “pistol” screen for Giannis Antetokounmpo that Robinson was forced to switch. Antetokounmpo backed Robinson down to the right block and Trevor Ariza doubled off of Middleton, who got a wide-open 3 from the top of the arc.

Khris Middleton 3-pointer

 

Critical in that play was Donte DiVincenzo diving into the paint as Antetokounmpo began his back-down. That prevented Nunn from being able to rotate to Middleton from one pass away. With Nunn in the paint, Butler was the next rotation, but had a longer distance to travel.

A few possessions later, Jrue Holiday contested a Nunn jumper and kept going, bumping Nunn under the basket to establish early post position, from which he scored easily…

Jrue Holiday post-up

 

Late in the first quarter, Bryn Forbes was already 4-for-4, including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. So he should have had the Heat’s full attention. And with two minutes to go in the period, Tyler Herro did successfully chase Forbes around a pin-down screen to prevent an early-possession catch-and-shoot 3. But then the Bucks got another mismatch when the Heat switched a hand-off from Bobby Portis to P.J. Tucker. Portis took Dragic into the post, drew a double from Andre Iguodala, stepped through, and found an escape valve in Antetokounmpo. One pass later Forbes was draining a 3 from the left wing…

Bryn Forbes 3

 

What can the Heat do?

The series moves to Miami for Game 3 on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT), with the Heat in desperate need for a win, but also dealing with a problem that they might not be able to solve. They have two elite defenders in Butler and Bam Adebayo, but neither has been able to make the Bucks pay for sagging off defensively. They’re a combined 7-for-32 on shots between the restricted area and the 3-point line.

Dragic, Nunn and Robinson can shoot, but can’t deal with Milwaukee’s three best players on the other end of the floor. Game 2 was a reminder that the Heat are missing the guy from last year’s starting lineup – Jae Crowder – who could both make shots and hold his own defensively.

The Heat are certainly better than what we saw on Monday, and they’ve been able to thread that offense/defense needle in the past. But it’s clear that their margin for error is slim and time is running out.

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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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