2023 Playoffs: East First Round | Bucks (1) vs. Heat (8)

Film Study: Bucks can't stop suddenly potent Heat

Miami's once-middling offense looks unstoppable against a Bucks defense that has lost its edge.

Duncan Robinson got loose like he used to in Game 3 against Milwaukee.

The Miami Heat, who ranked 25th offensively in the regular season, rank first offensively in the playoffs, having scored 123.5 points per 100 possessions in three games against what was the league’s fourth-ranked defense.

It’s a make-or-miss league and the Heat have shot a playoff-best 50% (47-for-94) from 3-point range in their first round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, who have been without Kia MVP finalist Giannis Antetokounmpo for all but 11 minutes through the first three games. But the Heat have done more than shoot well, and the Bucks certainly didn’t defend at the level they’re capable of in Game 3 on Saturday, when Miami took a 2-1 series lead with a comfortable, 121-99 victory.

Here’s a look at how the Heat executed offensively, and how the Bucks let them get to where they wanted to go…

1. Robinson on the move

Back in the 2019-20 season (the one that ended with the Heat in the Finals), Duncan Robinson struck fear in opposing defenses with his non-stop movement and his 45% clip from 3-point range. Robinson’s shooting has dropped in each season since then, and he was (essentially) out of the Heat’s rotation for the last three months of this season. But with Tyler Herro having fractured his hand in Game 1, Robinson has been needed, and he’s looked like his old self over the last couple of games.

Robinson’s first bucket on Saturday was a pull-up 3 off a two-man game with Bam Adebayo and with Brook Lopez in drop coverage. And on the next possession, we got more classic Robinson, with the Heat using him as a screener and then putting him on the move. When he set a ball screen for Kyle Lowry, Pat Connaughton didn’t want to leave him, allowing Lowry to get into the paint. And when Lopez came with help, Lowry kicked the ball out to Adebayo.

At that point, Connaughton lost sight of his man. And Robinson, of course, kept moving, circling around Adebayo to take a handoff for a 3 from the right wing…

Duncan Robinson 3-pointer

On his 29th birthday, Robinson tied his regular season high with 20 points, and the Heat scored 66 points on 46 offensive possessions (143 per 100) in his 24 minutes. The Bucks tried to attack him a few times on the other side of the floor, but couldn’t do so enough to really punish the Heat.

2. Nobody’s guarding anybody

Connaughton losing Robinson (after not containing the pick-and-roll) wasn’t the Bucks’ worst breakdown in Game 3. The worst was Lopez abandoning his drop coverage and allowing Jimmy Butler to walk in for a dunk midway through the first quarter. And the Bucks had other instances where neither defender involved in the pick-and-roll actually defended the guy with the ball.

Midway through the second, Joe Ingles got in Jrue Holiday’s way, preventing him from contesting a Lowry 3-pointer. And late in the period, Holiday neither contained Gabe Vincent off the dribble nor stayed with Butler rolling to the rim. The Bucks’ defense got scrambled and Kevin Love got an open catch-and-shoot 3…

Kevin Love 3-pointer

3. Into the paint

In the third quarter, the Heat ran several pick-and-rolls from the side of the floor. And the Bucks too often let them get to the middle. Early in the period, Love set a ball screen for Vincent on the right side, with Adebayo slipping out of a second screen. Bobby Portis stayed with Love, allowing Vincent to get into the heart of the paint. With Lopez retreating to Adebayo’s roll, Vincent had himself an easy runner…

Gabe Vincent runner

Two possessions later, the Heat ran the same play and Holiday came from the weak side to cut off Vincent’s drive, only for Butler to beat Holiday one-on-one after the defense reset. There was a lot of Butler making shots against solid defense on Saturday, and he’s probably not going to shoot 4-for-4 from 3-point range again. But the Bucks allowed more drives down the middle of the paint later in the period.

Butler and the Heat have been terrific offensively, and the Bucks have been without one of their three All-Defense candidates. But whether or not they get Antetokounmpo back for Game 4 on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT), they will need to be better defensively if they’re going to even this series.

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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.

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