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Injury-Plagued Game 1 Sees Heat Upset Bucks In Milwaukee

Cedric Donaldson

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Sun Sentinel photo credit

Heading into the first-round series between the 1-seed Milwaukee Bucks and the 8-seed Miami Heat, most expected a straightforward contest. While the Heat have earned their reputation as a difficult playoff opponent in recent years, the fact was that they didn’t seem as formidable this time around. Miami needed every bit of a strong final stretch to make it into the first play-in game, then suffered an uninspiring loss to the Hawks. From there, they had to beat the Bulls just to cling to an 8-seed. The Bucks, by contrast, have looked the part of a dominant top team. They rattled off 16 straight wins from late January through early March, and from there closed the season 13-5 before taking their foot off the gas for the final two games. 

Given all this, it’s no surprise that the Bucks entered as a heavy series favorite, both with oddsmakers and general NBA prognosticators. Indeed, when ESPN posted its annual rundown of “expert picks” for the playoffs, 18 of them had the Bucks advancing; 0 picked the Heat. In Sunday’s Game 1 however, a hot start by Miami and multiple significant injuries flipped the script in a hurry. 

Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and Miami’s Tyler Herro traded baskets to start the game, after which point the teams spent a few minutes feeling one another out. After a jumper from the Bucks’ Khris Middleton made it an 11-9 game in favor of Miami however, the Heat went on a bit of a run. Jimmy Butler led the charge and was aided by some sharpshooting from Caleb Martin, as Miami jumped out to a 26-13 lead. What happened in the midst of this run was more significant than the score, however. Attacking the basket just before the four-minute mark, Antetokounmpo collided with Kevin Love and fell hard onto his tailbone. He stayed in the game in the moment, but was subbed out shortly thereafter. The quarter wrapped up with Miami leading 33-24, and questions surfacing over whether Antetokounmpo had sustained a real injury. 

For most of the second quarter, the teams swapped buckets and small runs. Milwaukee drew to within 1 on a Jrue Holiday jumper five minutes into the quarter; Miami then rattled off a 7-0 run to jump back up 8. Word gradually surfaced that Antetokounmpo was unlikely to return to action, and suddenly it seemed as if the Heat had a very good chance to “steal” Game 1. Late in the second quarter however, Miami had its own brush with bad injury luck: Tyler Herro jammed up his hand diving for a loose ball, and though he managed to knock down a three moments later, he ultimately exited the game in pain. The Heat went into the break leading 68-55 in what had become a confused and unfortunate opening game. 

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As it became clear that Herro, like Antetokounmpo, was out for the game (with what we’ve since learned is a fracture in his hand), the third quarter played out as a back-and-forth affair with role players on both sides making contributions. The Bucks got strong minutes out of Bobby Portis and Joe Ingles; for the Heat, Caleb Martin and Kevin Love made big plays to help maintain the lead. After 12 tense but free-flowing minutes, Miami led 102-88 with a quarter to play. 

Khris Middleton came out firing for Milwaukee and brought the Bucks back within 9 with a smooth jumper with 7:42 to play. From there however, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo stepped up to stop the minor bleeding. The minutes ticked by quickly, and a Caleb Martin three-pointer with 2:40 to go put the Heat back up by 11 and all but sealed the deal. Miami came out on top by a score of 130 to 117. As he so often is in crucial playoff situations, Butler was the star of the game, finishing with 35 points and 11 assists. 

What comes next is anyone’s guess. The Heat have made it a series by stealing Game 1 on the road, and it’s unclear if or when Antetokounmpo will return to action. With Tyler Herro out for the series as well however, this one is looking like a war of attrition. 

 

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WADE COUNTY: NBA Legend Dwayne Wade inducted into the Hall of Fame

Jae Fortune

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WELCOME TO WADE COUNTY

 

 

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RED HOT: Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat light up the Amway Center

Jae Fortune

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© sportsclubflorida.com | equame lindquist

BURNING THE LEAD

After trailing the entire game, the Miami Heat snatched the come-from-behind win over the Magic, 107-103, in front of a packed Amway Center.

Jimmy Butker and the Heat came alive in the fourth quarter, burning through the hometown team’s 17-point cushion. Orlando’s young core had an excellent first half, building a comfortable lead by outscoring Miami’s bench. However, the experience of Miami’s frontcourt helped them tie the game late in the fourth, steal the lead in overtime, and the Heat never trailed after that moment.

MISSING T-ROSS

In their first game since veteran Terrance Ross‘ departure into free agency, the Magic jumped to a hot start, outscoring Miami in the paint (46/42), and leading the game until the bitter end. Unfortunately, as the Human Torch heads to Dallas, Orlando Magic fans find themselves missing his threatening presence on the perimeter.

Meanwhile, Miami’s (38) three-point attempts were pivotal to closing the gap down the stretch, while Orlando could only put up (29) shots from beyond the arc.

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TAKEAWAYS FOR ORL

With “Let’s Go Heat” chants raining down from the upper bowl, Orlando’s final home game before the All-Star break might as well have been on South Beach. As Orlando’s overdependence on attacking the paint (and questionable calls from the refs) began to take their toll, a harsh realization set in.

As talented as the Magic are, they can’t compete without shooters on the perimeter. A massive void left by a veteran sharpshooter is the biggest problem for the Magic right now. Orlando needs those deep shots to fall in order to close-out competitive games.

TAKEAWAYS FOR MIA

Lack of offensive potency is an issue that needs to be fixed before Miami can reach it’s full potential. With the implosion of the Brooklyn Nets, and relocation of two of the leagues biggest stars out West (Kevin Durant to Phoenix, Kyrie Irving to Dallas), the Heat are in the best position to challenge Boston for Eastern Conference dominance.

Miami scored on less than half of their attempted threes (30.8%); attempted field goals (43.5%), and their biggest lead of the night was a mere five points. Excellence coaching and leadership aside, scoring matters too.

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