The best way to describe what happened to the Miami Heat against the Bucks was said best by Giannis Antetokounmpo, “There’s a saying, don’t play with your food, we didn’t play with our food.” I would be lying to you if I said that that quote doesn’t give me chills for the Bucks competition going forward.
With that being said, that is the no stats argument for why the Bucks dismantled the Heat, but obviously, there are stats to support the Bucks’ performance in round one. The Bucks won this series for two distinct reasons: defense and domination on the glass. Milwaukee decided to pit superstar against superstar by having Giannis’s guard Jimmy Butler, and man oh man did it work.
Milwaukee held Miami to the lowest playoff offensive rating in over six postseasons, and Giannis held Jimmy Butler to only 39 percent shooting from the field overall. Brooke Lopez was also a large defensive presence for the Bucks where he held the Heat to 32 percent shooting on 76 contested shots in the paint when Lopez was the defender. The defense helped limit the Miami scorers thus leading to more possessions for Milwaukee’s sharpshooters and Giannis to go to work.
The defense was not the only thing that propelled the Bucks, as they also dominated the boards. During the series, Milwaukee collected more than a third of their missed shots on offense and 75 percent of the defensive boards in the series. At a 33.6 percent offensive rebound rate and a 78.8 percent defensive rebounding rate, the Bucks would have led the NBA in the regular season with those numbers, so to do so in playoff time, was pure dominance.
Rebounding is a major pillar in the keys to winning basketball games, and Milwaukee clearly set out to eliminate the Heat on the boards. The dominance on the boards helped Milwaukee get more transition opportunities, as well as second-chance shots, and the Bucks rode that wave right over the Heat.
While defense and rebounding were the x-factors for the Bucks in their sweep of the Heat, Milwaukee also managed efficient team scoring, especially in the final game. The Bucks had four players finish with 20 or more points, led by big man Brooke Lopez, who finished with 25 points on 11-15 shooting from the field. The Bucks showed they can dominate on both sides of the floor, and they beat the Heat the same way they were beaten last year in the eastern conference semifinals.
In-game one, Milwaukee won on a buzzer-beater but after that, the Bucks systematically beat Miami with their mixture of three-point shooting, defensive presence, and elite level rebounding.
Going forward, Milwaukee more than likely will not dominate both sides of the floor as they did against Miami. With powerhouse teams like the Brooklyn Nets more than likely meeting the Bucks, they will need to step up their game even further despite an impressive four-game sweep in their first-round series.
Stats from espn.com
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