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

Playoffs Film Study: Heat stifle the Bucks down the stretch

Miami pulls off epic rally in Game 5 and stymies Milwaukee late with several key defensive plays.

Thanks to another massive defensive effort, Miami rallied from its second straight double-digit deficit entering the 4th quarter.

Jimmy Butler did it again. Two nights after scoring 56 points in Game 4 of the Miami Heat’s first round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, Butler scored 42 in Game 5, with the highlight being an incredible alley-oop finish to send it to overtime. The Heat then outlasted the Bucks in the extra period and eliminated the No. 1 seed in the East with a 128-126 victory.

It was the sixth time (the first in the last 11 years) an 8 seed has defeated a 1 seed in the first round, and it put the Heat in a conference semifinals series with the New York Knicks, which will begin Sunday at Madison Square Garden (1 ET, ABC).

It was another epic collapse for the Bucks. In the regular season, they were a league-best 51-3 when leading after the third quarter and 47-2 when they led by double-digits in the fourth. They led Game 4 on Monday by 11 points after three and by 12 with six minutes left. Entering the fourth on Wednesday, they were up 16.

They lost both games, an absolutely brutal way to end a season in which they had the league’s best record overall.

Heat dissect Bucks' top-tier defense, expose flaws guarding 3-point shot

Going to their final two trips of the third quarter, the Bucks scored just 24 points on their last 38 possessions of Game 5, an anemic rate of just 0.63 points per possession. Over those 18 minutes, they shot 5-for-27 and turned the ball over seven times. (Prior to those last 38 possessions, the Bucks had scored 102 on 75, a rate of 1.36 points per possession.)

This is a team that ranked 15th offensively in the regular season, outside the top 10 for the first time in the last six seasons. They had one guy who got to the rim and ranked 28th in the percentage of their shots (42.4%) that came in the paint. Even when they won the championship two years ago, the Bucks had some brutal offensive stretches (and games).

Free throws were a huge problem. The Bucks attempted a season-high 45 free throws on Wednesday, tied for seventh most for any team in any game this season. But they were just 28-for-45 (62%) from the line, including 12-for-20 (60%) in the fourth quarter and overtime. Giannis Antetokounmpo shot a brutal 10-for-23 (43%) from the stripe and Jrue Holiday missed one of two before Butler’s game-tying bucket at the end of regulation. If they make just one more of those freebies, the Bucks are probably going back to Miami for Game 6. Instead, their season is over.

But credit the Heat’s defense. They had some terrific possessions on that end of the floor down the stretch. Here are a few from overtime…

1. 6-foot guard protects the rim

In the first minute of the extra period, the Bucks ran an out-of-bounds play to get the ball to Khris Middleton on the left side of the floor. But with Max Strus attached to screener Brook Lopez, Holiday was able to turn the corner. Kyle Lowry saw what was happening and was able to get into Holiday’s path without fouling, forcing an awkward lefty layup that rolled off the rim …

Kyle Lowry contests Jrue Holiday drive

2. Not giving an inch

Lowry fouled out two possessions later. After that foul, the Heat had Butler guarding Lopez, who set a screen for Antetokounmpo. And after Butler switched the screen, Antetokounmpo tried to back him down. But Butler didn’t let him go anywhere, and Antetokounmpo missed a long jump hook from just inside the free throw line …

Jimmy Butler defense vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo

On the following possession, Holiday seemed to have a half step on Caleb Martin. But Martin stayed with him and contested another missed layup on the left side of the basket.

3. The final stop

After scoring just one point (with three missed free throws) on their first six possessions of the extra period, the Bucks trailed by seven. But they climbed back to within one and had one final chance after Gabe Vincent missed a step-back 3.

There were 10 seconds left when Antetokounmpo grabbed the rebound. The Bucks chose not to call a timeout (they had two available), probably thinking they could take advantage of a scrambled Miami defense.

But Butler stopped Antetokounmpo’s initial push and Martin met a trailing Middleton. When Middleton got by Martin, Strus was there with help. Grayson Allen was open for a second, but Vincent was quick with a rotation off Holiday, preventing both an Allen 3-point attempt and (with active hands) a swing pass to the guy he just left. Allen was forced to put the ball on the floor, and he took one too many dribbles, failing to get a shot off before time expired …

Bucks last possession

It may have been a mistake by the Bucks not to call timeout. It was definitely a mistake for them not to call timeout after Butler’s game-tying bucket and with 0.5 seconds left in regulation. Even though Antetokounmpo played just the last two games plus 11 minutes of Game 1, the team with the league’s best regular-season record was a huge disappointment in this series.

But the Heat won this series as much as the Bucks lost it. They found their offense, Butler was amazing, and they got the stops they needed to move on to the conference semis, where a similarly tough opponent awaits.

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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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