Bucks 109, Heat 107: Bucks Get Cathartic Win in Playoff Opener

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It happened folks. Despite dreadful perimeter shooting and a group of refs that did the Bucks no favors, they hung on to take Game 1. This felt far more important than a single win after what happened last summer, and it was great to see Milwaukee pull this one out despite all of the things that went wrong. They missed thirteen free throws, were outscored by 45 points from beyond the arc, and saw Duncan Robinson make more threes than the entire Bucks team. None of it matters after Khris Middleton’s fadeaway fell at the end of overtime. One down. Fifteen to go.

Let’s take a deeper look at how this one went.

First Quarter

The Bucks didn’t get off to the greatest start, but they ended up playing an acceptable quarter overall. Three Duncan Robinson triples in the first three minutes combined with some early Milwaukee turnovers to give the Heat an 11-6 lead about four minutes into the game. Things held relatively steady for a few minutes from there with both teams struggling to score. Then the Bucks hit some shots to tie things up at 15 with about four minutes to go, sparking a series of mini two-bucket runs that eventually resulted in the 22-24 score. Turnovers and poor shooting were a big issue for both sides.

Second Quarter

Not a whole lot changed at the start of the second, though we did see both teams start to get into more of an offensive rhythm for a little while. Bobby Portis had a nice few minutes for the Bucks. The fouls started to pile up here, and Milwaukee certainly wasn’t getting any help from the refs. Both PJ Tucker and Brook Lopez ended up with three fouls by the half, and the calls were often pretty heavily in Miami’s favor. In the second half of the quarter, the Heat went ice cold while the Bucks started to find their groove, and Milwaukee took their first lead at 41-40 with about four minutes to go until the half. They ended things up 53-50 after more foul calls and some poor defensive rebounding allowed the Heat to stick within a possession.

My first half summary: the Bucks’ half wasn’t as ugly as the Heat’s despite their turnover and shooting woes, but Miami made up for it at the line, on the offensive glass, and with Robinson’s four threes.

Third Quarter

Robinson’s shooting and the questionable fouls continued early on in the third, and that allowed the Heat to keep pace with a much more lively offensive effort from the Bucks. Milwaukee got off to a good start, building an eight-point lead, but it didn’t last. About halfway through the quarter, things really started to heat up with a few minutes of back-and-forth play where seemingly every possession ended with a made basket. The hit rate went down a little bit as we neared the end of the quarter, but both teams continued to score with each other. The Bucks were up 80-78 heading into the fourth. Despite their better offensive output, they continued to struggle from deep. The Heat had a 42-12 edge on points off of threes after three quarters.

Fourth Quarter

The game stayed close the entire time in the fourth frame. No team led by more than four points at any point in the quarter. The Bucks took a 97-93 lead with about ninety seconds left on two free throws from Brook Lopez, but a huge Trevor Ariza three brought the Heat back within one. Both teams – and Giannis especially – failed to take advantage at the line from there, leading to a 99-97 Bucks lead with one possession to play. Jimmy Butler came through when the Heat needed him, driving for a buzzer-beating layup that sent the game to overtime.

Overtime

Duncan Robinson and Goran Dragic combined for all of Miami’s eight overtime points, and they kept this one close throughout the period. A potential illegal screen on Bam Adebayo allowed a last minute game-tying three from Dragic, but, as was the theme today, no one blew the whistle on Adebayo. That three set up the dagger – a Khris Middleton fadeaway that put the Bucks up two with less than a second left.

Takeaways

1. Enjoy this win

This was a fantastic game that ended with the good guys on top. Let it sink in for a bit. It’s been a while since we were able to enjoy a Bucks playoff win. Despite all of the issues, there are a lot of positives to take away. Jrue Holiday flashed his ability in a few moments that showed a clear separation between him and Eric Bledsoe. Giannis gave an inspired effort despite his shooting woes. Khris was great. The defense played pretty well. Bud coached a good game. The Bucks are in a great spot in this series now; Miami had a lot of things go their way and they’re 0-1.

2. The shooting can’t be this bad moving forward

We could say this even if the Bucks weren’t one of the best shooting teams in the league. A 5-31 game from deep is simply an anomaly. This was the 1087th game of the NBA season. It was only the tenth in which a team took thirty or more threes and made five or less of them. None of those nine previous teams also managed to make less than 65% of their free throws. This type of shooting game won’t happen again, and that’s a great sign for the Bucks.

3. The refs need to be better

Goran Dragic got a call for tripping over his own feet. Bam repeatedly grabbed and/or moved on screens, and there was nothing. The Khris Middleton foul on a Duncan Robinson three was a massive momentum shifter that probably shouldn’t have been called. That just can’t happen to the home team.

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