Jimmy Butler Drops 40 to Power Heat to Game 1 Upset over Giannis, BucksSeptember 1, 2020
The Miami Heat continued to roll.
After sweeping the Indiana Pacers in the first round, Miami defeated the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks 115-104 in Monday's Game 1 of a second round series at Walt Disney World Resort. It marked another poor performance in an opening contest for the Bucks after they lost Game 1 of their first-round series to the Orlando Magic.
Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic led the way for the Heat, who maintained the script after they won two of the teams' three regular-season meetings.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez spearheaded the losing effort for the Bucks.
Notable Player Stats
- Jimmy Butler, F, MIA: 40 PTS, 4 REB, 2 AST
- Goran Dragic, G, MIA: 27 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST
- Bam Adebayo, F, MIA: 12 PTS, 17 REB, 6 AST
- Khris Middleton, F, MIL: 28 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST, 4 TO
- Brook Lopez, C, MIL: 24 PTS, 4-of-6 3PT
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, MIL: 18 PTS, 10 REB, 9 AST, 6 TO
Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic Topple Daunting Bucks Defense
Milwaukee's defensive strategy revolves around stopping penetration, protecting the rim and forcing teams to beat it from the outside.
It may seem counterintuitive in today's pace-and-space era of basketball, but the Bucks led the league in defensive rating, per NBA.com. Miami took advantage of some of that space with 12 triples, and Butler and Dragic found ways to probe the defense, play through contact and create opportunities in the lane.
Dragic also broke free in transition at times before the Bucks could even set their formidable defense and was in full control in half-court sets with the offense running through his ball-handling and facilitating.
The one-two combination led the Heat back from a double-digit deficit and put them in position to win in the fourth quarter, which was surely the goal heading into a battle with powerhouse Milwaukee.
Crunch time was their time.
Miami was up by one point with four minutes remaining when Butler hit a floater in the lane, drilled a deep triple, connected on a jumper from the elbow over George Hill and drilled another pull-up shot after Dragic's assist to Tyler Herro for a clutch three. That run put the Heat up 111-101 with 1:16 remaining.
It was a masterclass on how to beat the Bucks: enough outside shooting early and two playmakers' breaking down the defense to create looks before Butler took over as a singular force with the game on the line.
Question Marks Around Bucks Continue
The Bucks had the best record in the league this season at 56-17, but it was fair to question their ceiling.
After all, they lost one game and were in closer-than-expected battles multiple times with the Magic, who went 33-40 during the season and were without Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba and Michael Carter-Williams.
That uninspiring play, along with the absence of Eric Bledsoe (hamstring injury) on Monday and the fact that Miami was coming off a sweep of a formidable squad, put Milwaukee squarely under the microscope.
Antetokounmpo set the tone early, swatting a Butler dunk attempt, powering his way to the rim for his own dunk and even hitting a three-pointer, which is the nightmare of every opposing defense that has to pick its poison against the reigning MVP.
However, it was Lopez and Middleton who carried the offense for extended stretches as the Bucks built an 11-point lead. Lopez pulled Miami's interior defenders away from the basket with his outside shooting, and Middleton found his stroke in a welcome development after he had more games with two points (one) than he did with more than 21 against Orlando (zero).
Still, Middleton scored just seven of his team-high 28 points in the second half, while Antetokounmpo missed eight of 12 free throws in a game that could have gone either way.
Butler—not the league MVP—took over in the most important moments, and Antetokounmpo had a costly turnover in the final minute with his team trailing by seven, a fitting end to Milwaukee's comeback effort.
A combined 10 turnovers by Antetokounmpo and Middleton, plus the former's missed free throws and the latter's lackluster second half, means there are still plenty of question marks about the Bucks.
Game 2 is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET Wednesday.