After overcoming Orlando Magic in the First Round to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Milwaukee is currently facing a possible early exit from the playoffs. Their chances of reaching their first NBA Finals since 1974 are also in jeopardy at the moment. After two competitive games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Milwaukee Bucks trail Miami Heat 2-0 in the series and would have to avoid defeat in their next two encounters to stop Miami Heat from completing an upset clean sweep.
The Bucks lost 115-104 in Game 1 before succumbing to a 116-114 loss in Game 2 after Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler scored a pair of free throws with no time left on the clock. Defeat to the 5th seeded Miami Heat means that the Bucks have now lost four of the five encounters between the teams this season, with the sole victory over the Heat coming last month during the NBA restart in Orlando. Even though Game 2 ended in controversy, the Bucks’ performance was unconvincing.
In both games, Milwaukee Bucks have been a shadow of themselves as Miami Heat has dominated both games. The Bucks’ performances in both games against the Heat so far is a big contrast to their form in the regular season and the First Round of the Playoffs. For a Bucks team that boasts of the league’s MVP and Defensive Player of the Season, Giannis Antetokounmpo on their roster, the Eastern Conference Semifinal has been a disaster and lackluster at best. If the Bucks want to prolong their stay in the playoffs, there are a lot of issues they will have to address as soon as possible before it becomes too late.
Ahead of the crucial Game 3 encounter, we take a look at some of the talking points from the Bucks’ two defeats to the Miami Heat.
Giannis must improve to keep Milwaukee Bucks in the Playoffs
It has been a frustrating Eastern Conference Semifinals for Giannis Antetokounmpo so far. Even though Giannis has been decent in both games, he has failed to replicate his excellent performances from the regular season and the first round. In both games against the Heat, he has averaged just 23.5 points per game in the series, which is six points below his season averages. Giannis has also struggled against the Heat’s commanding defense, who have limited his influence and impact. Giannis finished Game 1 with an abysmal 18 points on a 6-of-12 shooting and a poor 4-of-12 shooting from the line.
In Game 2 against the Heat, Giannis recorded 29 points and 14 rebounds. He was also guilty of committing the contentious foul which saw Butler score a pair of free throws with zero time left to seal a crucial victory for the Heat. Giannis also had to sit out the half time along with Khris Middleton after committing three personal fouls.
For the Bucks to turnaround the series and avoid playoff heartbreak for the second consecutive season, Giannis will have to shake off his struggles and find a way to outwit Heat’s dominant defense.
Khris Middleton proving his value for the Bucks team once again
One of the few positives from the Bucks’ disappointing 2-0 deficit to the Heat has been the performance of Small Forward Khris Middleton in both games. Middleton finished Game 1 with 28 points, six rebounds, five assists, and two steals in 37 minutes. In Game 2, Middleton recorded 23 points, eight assists, and six rebounds in the Bucks’ second straight loss against the Heat.
Khris Middleton has undoubtedly been the second-best player on the Milwaukee Bucks roster for the last three seasons and has carried the Bucks’ offense whenever Giannis struggles to make any meaningful impact in their games.
Even though Middleton has shown how good he is in both games, he still has to improve in certain aspects of his game and maintain his consistency throughout a game. In Game 1, Middleton was unstoppable in the first half as he scored 21 points. However, Middleton faded in the second half, scoring just 7 points. If Middleton finds a way to cut out some of the mistakes in the game, he, along with Giannis, could do the damage against the Heat in Game 3 and get their team back into the series.