Dwyane Wade's knee is aching, but unless his malady somehow spreads to LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat are primed to complete the first sweep of the Big Three Era when they suit up on Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 4 of their NBA opening-round playoff series.
The Heat have completely dominated the first-round series so far, winning the first three games by an average of 16 points.
Brandon Jennings and the Bucks may have come into the series with something approaching optimism, but now, reality has set in.
No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series.
Because this particular playoff pairing might be among the most mismatched in league history, it's awfully hard to come up with a reason to believe Milwaukee will be the squad to buck that trend.
The series is all but decided, but the Bucks will be looking to at least avoid the broom by stealing Game 4.
Time: Sunday, April 28, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee WI
Series Record: Heat 3, Bucks 0
Key Storyline: Miami's Ongoing Battle With Complacency
The Heat have spent a season struggling to stay motivated. Even during their remarkable 27-game winning streak, the team endured long stretches of lethargy.
It's hard to blame them though as one or two short bursts of effort were almost always enough to polish off even some of the NBA's more dangerous opponents.
It should go without saying that the Bucks are not one of those dangerous opponents so there's a decent chance that Miami leaves things on cruise control for longer than usual in Game 4.
Wade is a game-time decision, and with the Heat well past the point of taking the Bucks seriously, he's really got no reason to strain himself by playing.
Miami's only real vulnerability in Game 4 will be that it knows a loss won't really mean much so maybe James takes it easy and the rest of the Heat follow suit. If that happens, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the Bucks manage to sneak in a victory.
However, with Milwaukee looking like a team that has already taken its best shot and seen the bully barely flinch (That was in the first quarter of Game 3, by the way), there's little to suggest that the Bucks even want to extend this series.
That's right folks, one team is so good that it doesn't have to try and the other is so utterly overmatched that it may not even want to. It's Eastern Conference playoff action at its finest.
Injury Report (Via CBSSports.com)
Heat: Dwyane Wade (knee, questionable for Game 4)
Bucks: Everyone on the roster (self-confidence, out for the season), but seriously, none reported.
Projected Starting Lineups
Heat: Mario Chalmers (PG), Mike Miller (SG), LeBron James (SF), Udonis Haslem (PF), Chris Bosh (C)
Bucks: Brandon Jennings (PG), Monta Ellis (SG), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (SF), Ersan Ilyasova (PF), Larry Sanders (C)
The Heat Will Win If...
They remember the route from the hotel to the arena.
What? You want real analysis? OK, fine.
The Heat's greatest advantage in this series (outside of having the three best players on either team) is the fact that the Bucks have to keep at least one of their worst offensive players on the court at all times.
Neither Luc Richard Mbah a Moute nor Marquis Daniels can be considered even remotely threatening from the perimeter (neither one has hit a three-point shot in the series), but one or the other is always on the floor because nobody else on the Bucks has even a prayer of bothering James on defense.
The result is a Miami defense that essentially gets to play five-on-four, packing the paint with whoever is guarding the Bucks' nonthreatening wings. The Heat have a ridiculously quick, rangy defense when they have to play everyone honestly. However, because they don't have to worry about skip-passes to open shooters like Mbah a Moute or Daniels, they get to cheat.
That's the equivalent of giving Usain Bolt a one-second head start in the 100 meters—the advantage is unnecessary, but it's just too hard to turn down.
Miami will win this game if it continues to exploit the Bucks' lack of perimeter shooting by using its extra defender to clog the lane and help out whenever Ellis or Jennings gets into a potential scoring area.
That practice has not only frustrated the Bucks' only capable scorers, but also given Miami an extra man to help out on the boards and served to ignite the fast break by creating turnovers.
No adjustments are necessary for the Heat. They've just got to keep doing what they're doing. If Milwaukee adjusts by putting more shooters on the floor and removing both of its larger defensive wings, James will go to town on the block.
Either way, Miami's in control.
The Bucks Will Win If...
Hell freezes over.
Seriously, though, the Bucks have a better chance of winning this game than any of the previous three in this series. Miami's potential complacency and even the last vestiges of the Bucks' pride should theoretically combine to give Milwaukee a shot at victory.
To hit the mark, though, the Bucks have got to find a way to get as many of their shooters on the floor as possible.
That means going small with either Ersan Ilyasova at center or using a three-guard lineup that features J.J. Redick on the floor with Ellis and Jennings. Sanders needs to be on the court if the Bucks are going to have any sort of defensive presence at all, so the former option is probably a bad one.
Then again, maybe the latter could work.
Look, I'm well aware that I just argued that such a strategy would result in mismatches galore that the Heat (and James in particular) could exploit, but these are desperate times. Milwaukee has to resort to desperate measures.
A little zone defense could help the Bucks get by with a small lineup. The Heat move the ball better than any team in the league, but if Milwaukee can at least funnel some of the action in towards Sanders, he could block a few shots and get the break going in the other direction.
During the regular season, Ilyasova hit 44 percent of his threes while Redick made 36 percent and Jennings hit 38 percent. Those guys have to be on the floor together, perhaps even in a five-out spread offense that features every offensive player spaced around the perimeter.
It'll take a miracle for the Bucks to solve Miami's defense, so maybe a few prayers from long range will help do the trick. Is it unlikely? Sure, but trying to beat the Heat without some kind of gimmick is basically impossible.
If Wade doesn't play, James has an off night and the Bucks knock down something like 20 three-pointers, Milwaukee can win Game 4.
On the other hand, if any one of those three things fail to happen, the Heat are in for a comfortable sweep.
It's not exciting, unique or bold to say so, but Miami is simply the better team by a wide margin. Without a confluence of unlikely events, the Bucks are out of luck.
After Jennings' pre-series prediction that Milwaukee would win the series in six games, it appeared that the Bucks were prepared to look the Heat right in the eye throughout a hard-fought series.
Instead, they've taken on a vacant stare that suggests they're resigned to being run over by an opponent too powerful to resist.
You know, like a deer in the headlights.
Prediction: Heat 103, Bucks 92