The Milwaukee Bucks continued to bully their way past the Miami Heat on Thursday, picking up a 113-84 victory in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals as the series shifted to South Florida.
Milwaukee now leads the best-of-seven 3-0 and will look to complete a sweep of last year's conference champions at American Airlines Arena on Saturday.
Despite inserting guard Goran Dragic into the starting lineup in place of Kendrick Nunn, the Heat couldn't keep up with a Bucks offense that ranked as the best unit in the NBA (120.1 points per game) during the regular season.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, can advance past the first round for the third consecutive season with one more win, eliminating Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and a gritty Heat team from the playoffs.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF, Milwaukee Bucks: 17 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists
Khris Middleton, SF, Milwaukee Bucks: 22 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists
Jimmy Butler, SF, Miami Heat: 19 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists
Bam Adebayo, C, Miami Heat: 17 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists
Bucks’ Third Quarter Buries Heat
It only took one quarter for the Bucks to prove the Heat couldn’t hang with them. Unfortunately for Miami, that came in the third frame, after Milwaukee took a 49-36 lead into halftime.
Even with Donte DiVincenzo forced out of the game with a left foot injury at the break, Milwaukee was able to insert Bryn Forbes (11 points) into its first unit without losing any of the three-point shooting it relies on DiVincenzo to provide.
The Bucks drilled more three-pointers in the third quarter (seven) than Miami made in the first three quarters combined (six). That helped Milwaukee score more points in one frame than the Heat mustered in the entire first half. The Bucks rode a 37-24 run in the third quarter to a rather tame fourth quarter in which Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo found themselves benched with their team down 30 and five minutes to play.
Forbes sank three shots behind the arc himself as every Bucks player aside from DiVincenzo notched at least 13 points in the win.
Milwaukee may not have won the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but it may have ended up with the best draw, getting to feast on a worn down Heat club before likely facing the Brooklyn Nets in the second round—Brooklyn leads the Boston Celtics 2-0 in their series.
By the end of the night, the Bucks had shot 48.3 percent from the floor while playing a much more athletic brand of basketball. Miami could only attempt to shoot their way back into contention.
It wouldn’t work. Whatever halftime adjustments Spoelstra made, they were quickly cancelled out by Milwaukee’s third quarter performance which all but secured a third straight victory over the Heat.
Now the Bucks need just one more win to sweep Miami after the Heat eliminated Milwaukee in five games during the second round last summer.
Heat Offense Stays Cold In Game 3
It’d be easy to forgive casual NBA viewers for mistaking Thursday’s Heat performance for a mid-December contest rather than a crucial postseason matchup.
Miami’s offense looked disjointed, failing to consistently get good looks at the rim and routinely failing to cash in on the good possession the Heat did put together. It’d also be easy to mistake Miami’s roster for a group that hadn’t spent much time together, not one that won the Eastern Conference less than a year ago.
What Miami did look like on Thursday was lifeless.
Aside from Butler, who notched his best outing of the postseason so far, the Heat never got into rhythm. Instead, they trailed by double digits from the end of the first quarter until the end of regulation with the Bucks leading by as much as 32.
The only lead Miami held all night was 2-0 after Bam Adebayo opened up the scoring one minute into regulation.
Instead, the Heat shot 37.6 percent from the floor (32-of-85) as head coach Erik Spoelstra’s decision to insert Dragic into the starting lineup failed to pay off. The shooting guard netted just five points and two assists in the first half before finishing with eight points on 14 field goal attempts.
Now facing a 3-0 series deficit, the Heat will have to make NBA history or begin enjoying their offseason earlier than expected. No team in NBA history has come back from a 3-0 deficit.
If returning to their home court, adjusting the starting lineup and having their fans pack the American Airlines Arena didn’t help change the Heat’s fortunes, it’s hard to imagine what will at this point.
After a charmed run to the NBA Finals in 2020, Miami appears to have run out of magic.
Game 4 between the Bucks and Heat is scheduled for Saturday, May 29 at 1:30 p.m. ET on TNT.