Miami Heat 109, Indiana Pacers 100 — The Heat took a 2-0 series lead over the Pacers on Thursday afternoon thanks to a big game from Duncan Robinson. He made his first six shots of the game, all threes, on his way to a 7-for-8 long range performance and a team high 24 points.
Robinson’s shooting got Miami out to a 12-3 lead early, but that actually didn’t last. By the time the first quarter was over, Indiana had led by five at one point and they were out in front, 24-22. Most of the second quarter was a closely contested affair, and the two teams went to the locker room with the Heat up five.
Officially, the third quarter doesn’t look lopsided at the end of the 12 minutes, but Miami built a 16 point lead — with noted Marquette guy Jae Crowder providing the capping three-pointer — midway through the frame that ultimately spelled the end of the Pacers here. Indiana would get the lead into single digits repeatedly in the early goings of the fourth quarter, including a Victor Oladipo triple with 6:36 left that made it 100-91. Miami answered with a triple from Goran Dragic and a dunk from Bam Adebayo to put it back to a 14 point margin, and that was all the cushion they needed.
Jimmy Butler finished with a very Jimmy Butler-esque 18 points, seven rebounds, and six assists on the night, and he chipped in two steals, too. Crowder had 10 points, eight rebounds, and three assists to help the Heat secure the win.
Milwaukee Bucks 111, Orlando Magic 96 — If you only saw the first half of Thursday night’s game between the Bucks and the Magic, then you were left with the impression that Milwaukee exited their Game 1 loss to Orlando pretty pissed off and determined to not let that happen ever again. Milwaukee was up 12 after the first quarter, up 23 midway through the second, and ultimately up 21 at halftime. Exactly what you want to see after the team never mounted any serious challenge to the Magic in the fourth quarter last time around.
And then the second half happened.
Look, it obviously wasn’t all bad. Milwaukee led by 20 at the end of the third quarter and by 15 when the game ended. It’s all fine if you measure it from those guideposts. But Bucks fans have to be at least slightly concerned by Orlando trimming the margin to just 12 at one point in the third quarter. If that was slightly concerning, then the Magic ripping off an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter to make it a nine point game with 3:56 to go was starting to veer towards full blown panic. Giannis Antetokounmpo cut off the run with a layup, and a series of possessions where Orlando just straight up forgot or refused to defend Brook Lopez behind the arc in the corner led to the Bucks going up 111-94 with 1:46 to go and everything was fine.
But it really wasn’t fine for a minute there.
Nikola Vucevic was ridiculous for Orlando for the second straight game, putting up a game high 32 points and 10 rebounds. Antetokounmpo gave the Bucks a 20/20 double-double on 28 points and 20 rebounds, and he had five assists in his free time. Giannis, Khris Middleton, and Eric Bledsoe combined for 15 of Milwaukee’s 15 turnovers in the game, and that’s really not okay. OUR GUY~! Wesley Matthews contributed seven points and an assist to the winning effort.
Las Vegas Aces 99, Connecticut Sun 78 — It’s not exactly confidence building to watch the Sun take ugly losses relatively close together to the two best teams in the WNBA at this point of the season. That’s what has happened, though, as Connecticut took a 21 point loss to the Aces just five days after falling by 23 to Seattle. At least there was the win over Indiana in the middle of it.
Two first quarter eight point leads deflated to just two points at the end of 10 minutes, and then things got worse. Las Vegas outscored Connecticut 28-15 in the second quarter, slowly but surely pulling away as the frame wore on. That made it 53-42 at the break, and then things just kept getting worse in the third quarter. The Aces opened up the second half on an 11-4 run, and that ended up pretty much being that.
Vegas could score pretty much at will inside the arc in this game, connecting on 32 of their 53 attempts. When your defensive two-point shooting percentage (60%) is higher than your defensive effective field goal percentage (59%), something has gone very badly for you.
Kayla McBride (25) and A’ja Wilson (21) both scored in double digits to lead the way for the Aces. 15 points was the top end for Connecticut, as both Alyssa Thomas and Briann January got there.
Marquette’s very own Natisha Hiedeman played 12 minutes here, going 2-for-5 from the field with both makes coming behind the arc for eight points. She added two rebounds, an assist, and a steal in her PT.
Up Next: The Bucks and Heat give us a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon. It’ll be Game #3 of both series, with Bucks/Magic tipping off at noon Central on Saturday on TNT, and they’ll be followed up by Heat/Pacers at 2:30pm. For those of us who are interested, it’ll actually be a tripleheader on TNT, as AEW Dynamite will follow the end of the Miami game, with Cody defending the TNT Championship in the main event against Mr. Brodie Lee.
It’ll be a Saturday evening start for Connecticut’s next game. They’ll take on New York with a 6pm Central time tipoff, and that one will come at you on CBS Sports Network. The Liberty are just 1-11 on the season and have lost six straight coming in. With just nine games left in the regular season, it’s definitely a win that the Sun have to get if they want to land a playoff berth.