The Milwaukee Bucks weren't afraid of an NBA playoffs rematch with the Miami Heat after losing to them in the second round of last year's postseason.
ESPN's Zach Lowe wrote how the Bucks could have avoided Miami in the first round by effectively laying down against the Heat in their penultimate game of the regular season.
"They had internal discussions about potentially doing so, sources said," according to Lowe. "They unanimously opted against it. They wanted to enter the postseason in rhythm. They would not evince any fear of any opponent."
While Milwaukee wasn't as dominant in the regular season as it was a season ago, the same can be said of the Heat. Miami was 17th in net rating (minus-0.1), down from seventh (2.7) in 2019-20, per NBA.com.
The Bucks also have Jrue Holiday this time around to help slow down Goran Dragic, who averaged 19.8 points in the conference semifinals. And Lowe explained how head coach Mike Budenholzer is looking to match Giannis Antetokounmpo against Jimmy Butler, something that didn't happen in the 2020 playoffs.
Things were looking a bit dicey as Milwaukee needed overtime and a Khris Middleton jumper to put the Heat away in Game 1.
The Bucks responded promptly by blowing Miami out by 34 points in Game 2. Antetokounmpo (31 points, 13 rebounds) and Holiday (11 points, 15 assists) both had double-doubles, while Bryn Forbes, who wasn't on last year's squad, came off the bench to hit six threes en route to a 22-point night.
Perhaps most importantly, Butler has just 27 points on 8-of-32 shooting through the first two games of the series. Having carried the Heat to the 2020 Finals, the five-time All-Star is struggling to replicate that form.
Throughout the NBA's history, championship-winning teams often had to overcome an opponent that proved troublesome in past offseasons.
The Chicago Bulls sweeping the Detroit Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals was the catalyst of their six titles in eight years. LeBron James couldn't get past the Boston Celtics during his first run with the Cleveland Cavaliers and then sent the Celtics packing during each of his first two years with the Miami Heat. ESPN devoted an entire 30 for 30 documentary to Reggie Miller's rivalry with the New York Knicks.
Quickly dispatching of the Heat would be one way for the Bucks to show they've grown since last season's bitter disappointment.