The third-seeded Milwaukee Bucks swept their way into the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs on Saturday with a 120-103 Game 4 win over the No. 6 Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.
Milwaukee is the first team to advance to the second round of the playoffs this season, and it has now reached the second round three years in a row.
In the process, the Bucks got revenge on a Heat team that beat them in the second round of the playoffs last season en route to an NBA Finals appearance for Miami.
While the Heat appeared to be trending toward a win and an extension of the series, the Bucks erased a seven-point halftime deficit and turned it into a six-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Bucks were able to overcome the loss of starting guard Donte DiVincenzo, who was ruled out for the rest of the playoffs Friday with an ankle injury, as center Brook Lopez led the way Saturday with 25 points and Giannis posted a triple-double.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, MIL: 8/18 FG for 20 PTS, 15 AST, 12 REB
Brook Lopez, C, MIL: 11/15 FG for 25 PTS, 8 REB
Khris Middleton, F, MIL: 7/16 FG for 20 PTS, 11 REB, 3 AST
Bryn Forbes, G, MIL: 7/15 FG for 22 PTS
Bam Adebayo, C, MIA: 10/17 FG for 20 PTS, 14 REB, 4 AST
Jimmy Butler, G, MIA: 4/15 FG for 12 PTS, 10 REB, 10 AST
Kendrick Nunn, G, MIA: 7/15 FG for 18 PTS
Tyler Herro, G, MIA: 5/13 FG for 14 PTS, 4 REB
Bucks Overcome Poor Shooting Performance from Giannis
Giannis Antetokounmpo struggled through his worst shooting performance of the series in Game 4, but the Bucks' depth stepped up in a come-from-behind victory.
The Heat led by seven points at halftime in a win-or-go-home scenario, and Giannis inability to score was a big reason why.
As pointed out by Stephen Watson of WISN 12 News, Antetokounmpo missed his first six field-goal attempts and didn't make one until late in the second quarter:
Antetokounmpo was settling for three-point attempts in too many instances, which played right into Miami's hands:
Additionally, Giannis found himself in foul trouble with three fouls at halftime, which is why it was actually a win for Milwaukee to only be down seven at the half.
Although Antetokounmpo was well off the mark with his shot, he did impact the game in other ways, especially with his passing.
As seen in the following highlights, Giannis displayed some wizardry as a passer and put his teammates in prime scoring positions:
Aside from those passes, it wasn't always pretty for Giannis on the offensive end in Game 4.
Even so, he contributed enough across the board to keep the Bucks in it and to post a triple-double in points, assists and rebounds.
As Giannis focused on other areas amid his shooting slump, many of his teammates picked up the slack, including Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Bryn Forbes, the latter of whom contributed big-time offense off the bench in DiVincenzo's absence.
Middleton coming to life after a rough opening half was key to Milwaukee's success as well, and it proved that Giannis is far from the only star on the Bucks' roster.
Closing out the series on a day that saw Giannis play nowhere close to his best is a great sign for the Bucks in terms of going on a deep playoff run.
Third-Quarter Implosion Dooms Heat
Everything seemed to be going perfectly for the Heat during the first half of Saturday's game. They were hitting their shots and holding Giannis in check, but things fell apart during the third quarter.
Boston Celtics analyst Marc D'Amico pointed out that the Heat's inability to put the Bucks away while Antetokounmpo and Middleton were struggling came back to haunt them:
Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press chimed in and noted that a Miami foul fest helped get the Bucks right back in it during the first half of the third quarter:
Even though Milwaukee didn't shoot the ball well early in the third quarter, it was able to whittle down the deficit at the free-throw line and eventually took a lead it would never relinquish.
With the Heat falling apart, Bally Sports Sun captured footage of veteran and three-time NBA champion Udonis Haslem berating his teammates on the sideline during a timeout:
Haslem's fiery response did little to rally the Heat. They cut the deficit down to six by the end of the third quarter, only to allow another Bucks run early in the fourth.
The Heat needed to play one of their best games of the season in order to avoid the sweep and keep hope alive, but the lack of execution that plagued them in Games 2 and 3 crept in during the third quarter.
It was a highly disappointing end to the season for the Heat as neither of their top two players, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, delivered the type of production Miami needed.
There is still some reason for optimism in Miami since the Heat went to the Finals last season and have some exciting young talent around their stars, such as Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, but it is fair to wonder if there is enough in place to contend for a championship after how this season played out.
The Bucks will now await their second-round opponent, which could be the second-seeded Brooklyn Nets in what would arguably be the most compelling series of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.