A late-season matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat may not look like a prime matchup on paper—the Bucks are 37-39, after all, and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are nursing injuries for the Heat—but it will likely serve as a preview of the first-round playoff matchup between the teams.
The Heat currently sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 60-16 record while the Bucks have clinched at least the No. 8 seed, and neither team will likely move from those seeds as the regular season draws to a close.
The Heat have taken two of three from the Bucks this season, but that could be a challenge if two of the team's superstars are out. Let's take a closer look at this playoff preview.
When: Tuesday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida
Watch: FS Wisconsin Alternate (Milwaukee); Sun Sports (Miami)
Stream: NBA League Pass
Listen: SportsRadio 1250 AM (Milwaukee); 790 AM/104.3 FM/710 AM (Miami)
Bucks Injuries (via ESPN)
Ekpe Udoh, Ankle, Day-To-Day
Heat Injuries (via ESPN)
Chris Bosh, Knee, Day-To-Day
Dwyane Wade, Ankle, Day-To-Day
What They're Saying
With the Heat's superstars battling injuries and the New York Knicks extending their winning streak to 12 games after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, you may think the Heat are somewhat vulnerable and the Knicks will pose a threat.
And that may be true, but as Pat Riley notes, the Heat are ready to make another long postseason run. From Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press (via Yahoo! Sports):
''They're ready,'' said Riley, who sits opposite the Heat bench during home games, rarely showing any outward signs of emotion. ''They know that they have something to play for. They know they have the weapons to go out and play for it. They're so smart as a team. They're getting themselves ready on their own clock and Spo is getting them ready the same way. They'll be ready to play.''
Bucks Player to Watch: Monta Ellis
Ellis has long been accused of lacking any sort of defensive game, and fairly so, but when you score 19.3 points per game and add 6.0 assists per contest, you can be forgiven if you aren't sturdy on the defensive end.
As a team, the Bucks aren't great defensively, but they're generally fun to watch, averaging 99.0 points per game (12th in the NBA). Behind guards Ellis and Brandon Jennings they also share the rock, with 22.9 assists per game (10th).
So no, Ellis isn't going to give you many defensive stops. Who cares? The man fills it up on the other end and is a big reason why the Bucks are heading to the playoffs this year.
Heat Player to Watch: LeBron James
It may be the boring and obvious choice, but have you ever been able to take your eyes off LeBron during a Heat game?
I didn't think so. Besides, if Bosh and Wade can't go in this game, it will be on LeBron to carry the Heat to a victory.
He's more than capable of doing so. LeBron is having another epic season and leads the team in points (26.9), rebounds (8.1) and assists (7.2) per game. Those are absurd numbers. How often do you see a small forward that rebounds like a power forward and sets up his teammates like a point guard?
Which team wins?
Even if Bosh and Wade can't go—and it looks like Wade may take the rest of the regular season off—you still have to like the Heat in this game. The Bucks don't have anyone that can guard James, and I have a feeling the superstar will put on a show for the hometown crowd, especially if Bosh also misses the game.
Look for the Heat to win, 97-92.