Milwaukee Bucks (1) vs Miami Heat (5)
Again, it’s a different ball game here in the bubble, so don’t put too much stock into the regular season numbers, but Miami win 2-1. The lone Milwaukee victory came here in the bubble, but Miami was without Butler and Dragic for that match. No injuries for either squad heading into this series, the first game is tomorrow, so let’s get into the breakdown.
There are a couple matchups in this series I will be keeping my eyes on. The first is Giannis and Bam. I know technically they play different positions, but I think Giannis’ ability to get to the rim will see them matched up fairly frequently. In the series against Orlando, Giannis was the only player to consistently perform well. He had a double/double in every game and averaged about 30 points and 15 boards. I can’t see him slowing down. Giannis will still get his. However, Bam is a great interior defender and he will make Giannis work for it. Not only that, Bam is comfortable closing out on shooters, so he can make life difficult for Lopez trying to hit the corner 3. You’d have to imagine Giannis will win on the box score, but I’m curious to see how much Bam can impact him.
The second matchup is Jimmy Butler and Khris Middleton. Khris Middleton started to show signs of improvement against Orlando, but is not playing at a high enough level. His job is only going to get harder from here, because he is matched up against an elite defender in Butler. I think Butler is going to shut Middleton down and someone else is going to have to step up for Milwaukee. The question is who? As I mentioned, nobody besides Giannis has stepped up for Milwaukee. It won’t be Middleton in this series and I can’t see anyone else doing it either.
This is a nightmare matchup for the Bucks. I mentioned in my first round preview that Milwaukee were lucky to match against Orlando, because Orlando do not shoot the 3 well. Bad news for the Bucks, Miami are lethal from outside. If Milwaukee let Miami shoot the 3 ball, the Heat will punish them for it. Miami are confident and playing great basketball right now. Milwaukee look like they can’t figure themselves out on either end. This could be trouble for them.
I think it will come down to what is better : Milwaukee’s inside game (more specifically Giannis) or Miami’s outside game. As I mentioned early, Bam will make Giannis work hard to get his points on the inside. Who is going to stop Miami from scoring? There are so many options for Miami outside, someone is going to get open looks. And if the Bucks do manage to stop the 3 (which I doubt), that leaves room for Butler and Dragic to get inside and score there instead.
It’s easy to forget how good Milwaukee was in the regular season, especially considering how average they’ve been lately. The bookies have Milwaukee as the heavy favourites in this series. I just looked and you can get 6 to 1 odds on Miami to win the series. That seems silly. If you remove Giannis, Miami have every single advantage in this. Most people are predicting Miami to win this series. All the pressure is now on the Heat to win, because they are expected to pull off the upset. Is it worth worrying the pressure might get to Miami, particularly the rookies? I don’t think so. Jimmy thrives off of pressure and I think he will bring the best out of the Miami players.
The best bet you can make in this series is Miami to win it, it’s such good value. Giannis for a double/double is still safe. I haven’t seen the individual bets yet, but I would be taking Middleton’s points to be under his line as well.
I do have a gut feeling that says not to rule out Milwaukee just yet, but my head and everything else tells me that Milwaukee do not stand a chance. I am going to predict Miami in 5.