Twenty-eight wins separated the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat during the regular season. But as the two teams began their first-round series in the 2013 NBA playoffs Sunday night, the slate was wiped clean.
While the gap in the standings between the two is substantial, there are several matchups that the Bucks might be able to exploit.
Whether they'll be able to capitalize and gain an advantage in those matchups is yet to be seen.
Even if they do, will it impact the outcome of the series?
Point Guard: Brandon Jennings vs. Mario Chalmers
The Bucks—almost by default—have an advantage at the starting point guard spot.
Miami doesn't ask Chalmers to do a whole lot outside of hitting shots when he's open and avoiding mistakes. That's not to say he's not an important player, he's just not as vital as Jennings is to the Bucks.
On the season, Jennings averaged 17.5 points and 6.5 assists per game on 39.9 percent shooting from the field.
Chalmers, on the other hand, averaged 8.6 points and 3.5 assists per game on 42.9 percent shooting in roughly 10 less minutes.
The biggest weakness Jennings has is his inability to score efficiently. Chalmers, without question, has him beat in that area, even though he doesn't score as much.
Jennings has proven that when efficient and looking to pass, he's a vital player in Milwaukee's success.
When he's efficient and willing to distribute, the Bucks are typically successful.
Without question, Jennings wins this matchup. He's more vital to the success of the Bucks than Chalmers and is the better player.
Advantage: Brandon Jennings
Shooting Guard: Monta Ellis vs. Dwyane Wade
Would it be believable if I told you that Ellis is having the second-worst season of his career in terms of shooting the ball?
At 41.6 percent, Ellis is suffering his lowest shooting percentage of his career since his rookie season in 2005-06.
On the other hand, averaging 21.2 points per game, Wade is suffering his worst scoring season since his rookie year.
In both cases, the result of playing next to teammates who also like to score impacts their output.
Nonetheless, the numbers are down.
Still, though, Wade scores at a much more efficient rate than Ellis.
And while Ellis thinks that he's on the level of Wade, that's probably a far cry from being the truth.
Ellis' comments might spark a fire in Wade, and rightfully so. Wade has been one of the best players in the league since he was drafted in 2003, while Ellis has just been known as a great scorer.
When he's hitting shots, Ellis is, without question, one of the best scorers in the NBA. But more often than not, he struggles to shoot at a high percentage, which causes his team, as well as him, to suffer.
If Ellis can continue to make defensive plays—like in the above video—it will help offset some of what Wade does a little bit.
But with Wade holding a statistical advantage in pretty much every category, it would be silly to pick Ellis in this matchup.
Simply put, Wade is the better player.
Advantage: Dwyane Wade
Small Forward: Luc Mbah a Moute vs. LeBron James
If there was a matchup that didn't require any statistical evidence to support it, this one would be it.
Without question, James is a much, much better player than Mbah a Moute, and it shows whenever the two step onto the floor against one another.
James is arguably the league's best player at present and has an advantage over Mbah a Moute in virtually every area of the game.
Statistics aside, James is just too must of a physical specimen for anyone to stop him from getting what he wants.
Averaging 26.8 points, eight rebounds and 7.3 assists per game, James is a triple-double threat every time he steps onto the floor.
And as this shot chart from Game 1 (courtesy of NBA.com/Stats) shows, he scores with tremendous efficiency.
On the season, James has a true shooting percentage of 64.0, which is easily the best of his career.
Mbah a Moute doesn't have the offensive arsenal to offset the excellent production of James and, on the defensive side, just isn't good enough to slow the King down.
LeBron should have his way with the Bucks all series, but if they're able to slow him down even a little and in turn can limit Miami's other weapons, they might have a shot at winning a few games.
Advantage: LeBron James
Power Forward: Ersan Ilyasova vs. Udonis Haslem
Ilyasova scored just two points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field during Sunday night's Game 1, rendering him virtually useless for the Bucks.
Getting off to a slow start this season, Ilyasova bounced back in the second half.
Prior to the All-Star break, he was averaging 11.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting 44.4 percent. Since then, he's averaged 17.2 points and nine rebounds while increasing his shooting percentage to 48.7.
Over the past two seasons, Ilyasova has shown that he's a very reliable scoring threat and produces with great efficiency. That, however, was absence during the series opener.
On the other hand, Haslem provides the Heat primarily with hustle minutes.
He's a player who's going to work on the glass, knock down occasional jump shots and play respectable defense.
His 3.9 points per game are the worst of his career, but his value on the floor goes beyond the numbers.
Still, Ilyasova is without question the more talented and more valuable player to his team.
Ellis and Jennings are likely going to get their points over the course of the series, but the Bucks need another face to pick up some of the scoring load.
That will likely fall on Ilyasova's shoulders.
Advantage: Ersan Ilyasova
Center: Larry Sanders vs. Chris Bosh
Sanders and Bosh aren't quite polar opposites of one another, but the differences are rather stark.
Bosh is an elite scorer who can work inside and out. In fact, this season is one of the most efficient of his career, highlighted by a true shooting percentage of 59.2 percent.
Meanwhile, Sanders is an elite defender who scores a good portion of his points from crashing the offensive glass.
And while he's developed a decent mid-range jump shot and low-post game, he's still rather raw on the offensive side.
Not only is Bosh a better scorer, but the style he plays essentially negates Sanders' defensive presence in the paint, or forces the Bucks to have someone else guard him.
Being primarily a faceup player works to his advantage in this series.
When he steps out onto the wing, he forces Sanders to come out with him. Doing so allows the lane to open up and doesn't allow the shot-blocking presence of Sanders to be felt as much.
Not to mention, Bosh is overshadowed by Wade and James. He's perfectly capable of being the go-to guy on many teams.
Advantage: Chris Bosh
Sixth Man: J.J. Redick vs. Ray Allen
One of the more interesting matchups of this series will be that of these two great shooters.
Both Allen and Redick are extremely good at coming off of screens and knocking down jump shots anywhere on the floor.
Redick came to the Bucks in February after averaging 15.1 points and 4.4 assists per game for the Magic. Since then, though, he's seen those numbers decrease to 12.3 points and 2.7 assists.
Part of that decline is due to playing less minutes, but he hasn't helped himself much either. His three-point shooting numbers have dropped from 39 percent to 31.8 percent with Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, even at 37, Allen continues to provide the Heat with valuable minutes.
In Game 1, he scored 20 points compared to Redick's six and was a key to the Heat pulling away and turning the game into a blowout.
For the Bucks to win games in the series, they'll have to keep Allen quiet while getting Redick going at the same time.
Ultimately, both guys play similar styles and provide similar production.
However, Allen's postseason experience and veteran leadership is more influential than Redick's.
Advantage: Ray Allen
True shooting and season/career stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!