After a thrilling victory in Game 1, the Bucks did quick work with the Heat on their way to a 132–98 victory in Game 2 on Monday. Milwaukee edged Miami 46-20 in the first quarter and never looked back, heading for a decisive victory. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 31 points in 31 minutes, adding 13 rebounds and 6 assists for good measure. After scoring just five 3-pointers as a team in Game 1, the Bucks combined to score 22 on Monday. All you need to know about the Heat night is that Dewayne Dedmon was their leading scorer at 19. Here are three thoughts on the blowout.
Milwaukee’s defense is at its peak.
There will be a lot of talk about the Bucks shooting in Game 2. Their defense was just as impressive. Milwaukee practically choked the Heat’s offense thanks in large part to the suffocating pressure of the ball that baffled Miami. Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Donte DiVincenzo in particular in the first quarter were relentless, putting pressure on the Heat guards and exposing their lack of safe ball handling. (The holidays have been extraordinary in both games in this series, and he’s proving to be a massive improvement over last season’s Eric Bledsoe and George Hill.) Miami is simply struggling to get the ball onto the court in two games. The Heat haven’t been getting into a great offense to begin with, and it’s taking them a long time to even get into those sets.
The length of the Bucks is clearly a problem for the Heat, and on top of that, Milwaukee is forcing Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler into situations they don’t want to be in. Adebayo is being challenged to take over the offense as he faces the Tories. covers, while Butler is being cornered to take jump shots while Giannis and Brook Lopez dissuade him from the paint. Obviously, the offensive explosion primarily propelled Milwaukee to its Game 2 victory. However, the defense cannot go unnoticed.
Gut check the time for Jimmy and Bam.
The Heat failed as a team on Monday. The energy and focus weren’t there, and the Bucks are successfully exploiting their opponent’s weaknesses. But Miami finally needs more of Butler and Adebayo in this series.
They both put up their second stinky in a row, combining to shoot 9 of 22 in Game 2, putting their total at 17 of 59 for the series, or 28.8% from the field. The Bucks are doing a great job stopping both players. Giannis’s length allows him to keep a cushion on Butler while still being able to compete with any possible mid-range jump. Lopez is hanging out in the paint on pick-and-rolls, which makes Butler hesitate to reach the rim and get free throws, the bread and butter of his offensive game. There are no easy answers for Miami, and he cannot win this series without Butler in his prime.
Meanwhile, the Milwaukee plan is also putting the spotlight on Adebayo. The Bucks don’t think he’s taking advantage of the space he’s being given, and so far that gamble has paid off. Adebayo was a little more aggressive in Game 2, but not so much that Milwaukee couldn’t keep living with its coverage. Essentially, if the Bucks are giving Bam room, he has to make them pay in a way that attracts more attention and makes life easier for his teammates. For Adebayo, that means consistently taking and hitting mid-range jump shots, and also finishing confidently at the basket, even if Lopez is on the prowl. Easier said than done. And yet the Heat have few other precious options.
Are these the dollars we’ve been waiting for?
Sometimes I wonder if the Bucks’ “failures” in the playoffs have been a bit exaggerated. In Giannis’ first MVP season, he lost to another all-time great player in Kawhi. And last year, the suspension of the season and the bubble made it difficult to discern what was real and what was not. Milwaukee seemed like an extremely confident team Monday, and it also seemed to exorcise some demons by humiliating a Heat team many expected would give the Bucks trouble.
Although the series is far from over, a dominating display like the one in Game 2 generally heralds bad things for the loser. The Bucks are finally playing like they know they are the best team. With more cards for Mike Budenholzer yet to play (like a reduction with Giannis at five), even if it can only be one game, Milwaukee is beginning to perform up to the expectations it has set for the past three seasons.
More coverage of the NBA playoffs:
• How the Clippers can stop Luka Dončić
• Utah’s Journey from Dysfunction to Dominance
• How the Suns became contenders ahead of schedule
• Whose legacy could have the biggest impact this postseason?
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.