Milwaukee Bucks vs Miami Heat: Round 2, Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

Milwaukee Bucks vs Miami Heat Eastern Conference
Milwaukee Bucks vs Miami Heat, Eastern Conference Semifinals

The Miami Heat took advantage of the fact the Milwaukee Bucks were missing Giannis Antetokounmpo and officially eliminated the Eastern Conference’s top seed. It was another strong team effort for the Heat, who had six players in double figures with none reaching 20 points to overcome Milwaukee’s early surge of energy. The Bucks jumped out to the early lead and held it until midway through the second quarter but then could not battle back from Miami’s run to take the lead into halftime. Khris Middleton scored 23 points to lead the Bucks, who know have a fascinating offseason ahead of them while Miami advances back to the Eastern Conference finals.

Miami Heat win 4-1

The Miami Heat were the better team in this series for all five games, overcoming the fact the Milwaukee Bucks held the best record in the NBA this season and featured the MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Ultimately, it was the team aspect of the Heat that won the series as they had at least six players in double figures in three of the five games. Miami also locked down the perimeter against the Bucks, holding them to 29.2 percent 3-point shooting in the final four games of the series. Now Miami has some time to breathe before its eighth appearance in the conference finals in franchise history where the Heat will face either Boston or Toronto.

Game 1

August 31st, 6:30 p.m., The Field House

The Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat meet in what could be the most interesting second-round series in the NBA playoffs. Milwaukee is the clear favorite in this matchup, but Miami presents a unique challenge with how adaptable it has proven to be this postseason. The Bucks will need to adjust on the fly to defend whichever Miami player is having a great game, and they will need to break down the Heat’s defense, which was very strong in the first round. This chess match between the two coaches will be fascinating to watch on a nightly basis in this series.

Milwaukee bounced back well from the stunner of losing Game 1 to Orlando with a better defensive gameplan and more dominance from Giannis Antetokounmpo. It was important for the Bucks to jumpstart Khris Middleton before the second round series, and his shooting will be vital to any future success Milwaukee has in the postseason. What the Bucks need to worry about is fixing the holes the Magic exploited in the series – notably with Nikola Vucevic – because they know that Miami and any other future opponent will try to attack the same things. Milwaukee will also need to run Duncan Robinson and Miami’s other talented shooters off the perimeter and not allow them to find a rhythm shooting in this series.

What stood out about Miami’s sweep of Indiana was how versatile the Heat were and how much things changed in each game. It was always a new player stepping up for the Heat on offense and Miami played excellent team defense to slow down the Pacers’ attack. However, Indiana didn’t have anyone like Antetokounmpo, who is a mismatch for most teams in this league with his size and athleticism. What Miami needs to figure out is how it can attack the weakness that Vucevic exploited for Orlando in the first round. That might mean more offensive touches for Bam Adebayo, who will need to be ready to contribute offensively for the Heat.

I’m a bit surprised at how big of a favorite Milwaukee is to advance past Miami (-400 odds), but I guess I should have expected that given the Bucks’ status as the top seed. I felt like Miami was better in general in the first round than Milwaukee, but the Heat also lack some of the attributes that have given the Bucks trouble thus far. Where Milwaukee has an advantage is that Miami doesn’t have anyone who can consistently slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo, so the Heat will need to focus on the four guys around him. Ultimately, I like Milwaukee to advance out of this series, but I expect it’ll take six games to get past Miami.

It will be literally one week since Miami last played a competitive game when Game 1 tips off Monday against Milwaukee, which would have played Saturday. The Heat will be more rested than the Bucks, but the Bucks will be sharper in the early going and it will become a question of whether or not Miami can stay close enough during that early stretch. Milwaukee is the favorite, according to the New Jersey online sports betting sites, and it’s difficult to find a reason to pick Miami in the opener. Perhaps the Heat can open up the Bucks with their perimeter shooting, but I think Milwaukee starts off the series with a big victory.

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Game 2 (Miami Heat lead 1-0)

September 2nd, 6:30 p.m., The Field House

Jimmy Butler became just the third Miami Heat player to score 40 points in a playoff game to lead Miami to an improbable win in Game 1 of its series with the Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat did so many things right defensively despite allowing Milwaukee to shoot 49 percent from the field in the game. They held Giannis Antetokounmpo to just 18 points in 36 minutes and effectively shut down the Bucks’ role players to help overcome an 11-point first-quarter deficit.

While we could focus on Butler’s effort in leading Miami to victory, the Heat’s success has always been predicated on the contributions they receive up and down their lineup. Bam Adebayo’s 17 rebounds and six assists were vital in Miami’s offensive surge over the final three quarters. Goran Dragic was again efficient in scoring 27 points in the victory, and Tyler Herro made three big 3-pointers even if he missed his other eight shots. The team defense was a big confidence boost as well to Miami’s efforts, and something the Heat will need to continue in this series to have success.

A better scoring game from Antetokounmpo would have made a difference for the Bucks, but it’s hard to fault him for the loss when he came just one assist shy of a triple-double in the game. The bigger issue for Milwaukee was the lack of production from its role players and reserves. Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton combined for 70 points on 56.5 percent shooting, while their teammates scored 34 points on 39.3 percent shooting. The group added some rebounds and the occasional assist as well, but they seemed to be more liabilities than assets in the game, and that must change for Milwaukee to accomplish its goals this season.

Prior to the bubble, the Bucks lost consecutive games just once all season – ironically enough the three-game losing streak it had when the season went on pause – but they have lost games in pairs since entering the bubble. It’s hard to predict Butler having another record night for the Heat, but then again what makes Miami such a dangerous team is its versatility and selfless play. It’s hard to imagine Antetokounmpo being limited to just 18 points again in Game 2 or for him to shoot as poorly as he did from the free-throw line. It’ll be tighter than the 5.5-point line at the New Jersey online sports betting sites suggest, but Milwaukee will even the series, and I’d bet on it at -195 odds.

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Game 3 (Miami Heat 2-0)

September 4th,6:30 p.m., The Field House

A controversial foul called on Giannis Antetokounmpo with no time remaining sent Jimmy Butler to the free-throw line to win the game for the Miami Heat. Butler made both free throws to break a tie and propel Miami to a 2-0 lead in their NBA playoffs series with the Milwaukee Bucks. Antetokounmpo was judged to have fouled Butler on his final attempt and the call was upheld after video review, adding to a nerve-racking final 26 seconds for both teams. Milwaukee overcame a six-point deficit in that span by taking advantage of a bad pass from Butler and a controversial foul call on Goran Dragic on a 3-point attempt by Khris Middleton.

All seven of Miami’s core rotation scored in double figures led by 23 points from Dragic, and the Heat shot an efficient 45.7 percent from the floor. It’s a game that against proved Miami’s strength is in playing team basketball and forcing opponents to guard everyone for fear of one player going off for a large game. But what was just as important for the Heat was the fact they could win a game against a team like the Bucks without having one player dominate a box score. Miami is a far more dangerous team if it can compete with the best teams in the league without a dominant scorer in a game and can instead win with more equal offensive production.

Milwaukee can build off its advantage inside where it held a 50-38 advantage in rebounds, including 17-7 in offensive rebounds. Antetokounmpo had a nice bounce-back game with 29 points and 14 rebounds, but the Bucks are going to need more contributions from their role players in this series to help overcome the scoring depth Miami brings to the table. Wesley Matthews scoring just four points in 30 minutes and Marvin Williams making just one of his six shots in 21 minutes were literal differences in this game. Milwaukee also needs to shoot the ball better from the perimeter after making just 28 percent of its 3-point attempts in Game 2.

Both games in this series have been incredibly even, so it’s more of a toss-up than the New Jersey online sports betting sites show in their odds. I’d lean toward the Bucks as the favorites just because I can’t imagine them losing three straight games, but the Heat have played two very good games in a row. What really troubles me is the notion that the Bucks are 5.5-point favorites in Game 3 because I don’t expect the difference to be that much between these two teams in this series. I think the Bucks will win the game behind a strong effort from Antetokounmpo, but for value purposes, I’m taking Miami getting the 5.5 points and the under 223.5 points at +260 odds.

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Game 4 (Miami Heat lead 3-0)

September 6th, 3:30 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

The Miami Heat had a historic fourth quarter to race past the Milwaukee Bucks and push the best team in the NBA onto the edge of elimination. Miami trailed by 12 points entering the fourth quarter, but then outscored Milwaukee 40-13 in the final 12 minutes, the largest fourth-quarter margin in the history of the NBA playoffs, to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series. Jimmy Butler had 30 points to lead the way for the Heat, who had five players finish in double figures and shot 45 percent from the field.

The focus will be on Butler as the catalyst for Miami, but the Heat received several other massive contributions that make them such a dangerous team. Bam Adebayo scored 20 points and collected 16 rebounds, Jae Crowder had scored 17 points and dished out five assists and Tyler Herro chipped in 13 points and eight rebounds. We also cannot overlook Andre Iguodala and Derrick Jones Jr. both making both of their 3-pointers in limited minutes. What we are witnessing is not just Miami dominating the Bucks, but doing so as a team with a group of players that take turns making the clutch play.

Milwaukee’s epic fourth-quarter collapse starts with the fact the Bucks shot just 6 of 23 in the fourth quarter and missed all 10 of their 3-pointers. The Bucks scored just 13 points, so they were outscored by Butler by himself, and had just one point in a game-ending run that proved to be the final difference in the game. It was a rough game in general for Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 21 points on 7-of-21 shooting while missing his seven 3-point attempts. Brook Lopez led the way with 22 points for Milwaukee and Khris Middleton added 18 points, but the Bucks disappeared too often when they had chances to slow Miami’s momentum.

Miami has become the favorite for Game 4 after its showing in this series, which seems like the perfect opportunity to bet on the Bucks. There’s the obvious factor that Milwaukee was the best team in the NBA this season for a reason and that the Bucks have the likely league MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The thought that this team could be swept out of the postseason is a bit far-fetched but certainly possible given how well the Heat have played in this series. It might not be the wisest pick, but given that the odds are in our favor here, I’m going to put down some cash on Milwaukee to avoid getting swept at +100 odds on the moneyline.

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Game 5 (Miami Heat lead 3-1)

September 8th, 6:30 p.m., The Field House

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 19 points in his first 11 minutes on the floor, but he re-aggravated a sprained ankle and the Milwaukee Bucks’ season was up in the air. Instead his teammates rallied around their injured superstar and kept the Bucks’ season alive with a fourth-quarter rally to force overtime then eventually won the game in the extra session. Khris Middleton scored 36 points, including a clutch 3-pointer in overtime, to help push Milwaukee over the edge and prevent the Miami Heat from sweeping the NBA’s top team out of the playoffs.

Middleton’s biggest shot of the season came with 6.4 seconds left in overtime to push the Milwaukee lead up to four before he sealed the game with last-second free throws. He finished with just three 3-pointers in the game, focusing more on getting inside and scoring easier baskets than relying on his perimeter shooting. He also finished with eight rebounds and eight assists as he stepped into the leader’s role for the Bucks without Antetokounmpo on the floor. Eric Bledsoe added 10 rebounds and six assists to go along with 14 points as Milwaukee shot 49 percent from the floor as a team and had six players in double figures.

Miami had a few chances to close out the series without Antetokounmpo on the floor for Milwaukee as it held an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter. However, the Heat allowed the Bucks to score the next 12 points of the game over a four-minute span. Miami regained a one-point lead late in regulation, but a late foul gave Milwaukee the chance to tie the game and force overtime. The Heat were not nearly good enough offensively in the extra session as they scored just two points in the first four and a half minutes of the five-minute period. All five Miami starters scored at least 17 points and Bam Adebayo led the way with 26, but it was not a good enough effort to close out the best team in the NBA.

It’s hard to imagine Antetokounmpo will be at 100 percent Tuesday, which means Milwaukee will need to be careful about how they use him. If he cannot be his dominant self – the player who scored 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting in Game 4 – then the Bucks will need more contributions from the rest of the roster in order to survive. Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler is angry at how the Heat let an opportunity slip away, and we’ve seen him take over two games in this series already. Miami is a deserved 3.5-point favorite at the New Jersey online sports betting sites, and I expect the Heat will come together to finish off the Bucks in Game 5. Led by a strong performance from Butler, I’m picking Miami at -103 odds to lay the 3.5 points and beat Milwaukee.

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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