And so, the top seeded team in the Eastern Conference and the team with the best record in the NBA this season has been eliminated from the playoffs. On Tuesday night, the Miami Heat bounced back from a 13 point first quarter deficit to beat the Milwaukee Bucks fairly comfortably, 103-94. That gives Miami a 3-1 win in the Eastern Conference semifinals series after the Heat had won the first three games of the series to push the Bucks to the brink of elimination fairly quickly.
The first 12 minutes definitely gave you the impression that Milwaukee was not going anywhere any time soon, even with MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo sitting out with an ankle injury. After Miami scored first to have the initial advantage, the first period was pretty much all Milwaukee all the time, culminating with a Kyle Korver three-pointer putting the Bucks up 28-15 with about a minute left in the period.
That was literally the high point of the game for Milwaukee.
It would be a nine point game at the start of the second quarter, and as it turns out, losing four points off their lead in the final minute of the period was a warning sign. That 28-15 margin was completely gone when Kelly Olynyk turned a Tyler Herro pass into a layup at the 9:36 mark to tie the game at 32. That’s a 17-4 run for the Heat. That’s bad if you’re a Bucks fan, but not terrible if you’re a neutral Marquette fan just wanting MU guys to keep advancing.
If we keep tracking the run by the Heat out to their largest lead of the second quarter — 45-37 with 4:36 remaining — then that’s a 30-9 run by Miami in less than nine minutes. That’s your ballgame right there. We can talk about Milwaukee bouncing back in the third quarter, trimming the lead to merely one point on a Donte DiVincenzo tip in, sure. But that’s as close as they came to even tying the game. It’s great that they came back to get it there, but the problem is that Milwaukee didn’t score again for more than six minutes. In the meantime, Miami ripped off 11 points, and that was after the Heat went three minutes without scoring themselves.
There’s an awful lot of “boy, it was right there in their hands, wasn’t it?” in this game for the Bucks. But Miami has Jimmy Butler, and if you want to beat a Jimmy Butler team, you need to not let him just rip things out of your hands when you’re not being careful. I guess, in theory, Milwaukee still had a chance to win late, cutting it to just four points with 3:13 to go, and again with 2:05 left to play. That’s clearly a “not decided” situation. But Butler had six points, two rebounds, and an assist in the final 2:16, and if you want to beat Miami, you have to not let Jimmy Butler rip your heart out like that.
Butler finished with 17 points in the game, which believe it or not, tied Goran Dragic for the team lead in an elimination game. He went just 4-for-6 from the field, but that includes making his only long range attempt and sinking all eight of his free throw attempts. Jimmy’s really good at this, y’all. HE also had 10 rebounds to give him a double-double, plus six assists and a block. Jae Crowder just missed out on that scoring lead, ending up with 16 points by canning four of his nine three-point attempts in the game. Crowder grabbed up six rebounds as well, and also contributed an assist, a steal, and a block.
Wesley Matthews’ 2020 playoff run is now over. He went out with an 11 point performance, adding a rebound, an assist, and two steals to the proceedings.
Up Next: Well, obviously, we don’t know. Miami advances to face the winner of the Toronto/Boston series in the Eastern Conference finals, of course, but that series isn’t over yet. Boston holds a 3-2 lead after winning 111-89 on Monday. Game 6 is set for Wednesday evening, with tipoff set for 5:30pm Central time on ESPN. If Boston wins, I would guess that Game 1 for Miami would be on Friday. However, if Toronto forces Game 7, then Miami would likely be waiting at least until Sunday, September 13th, if not a day or two longer.