This series is headed to Milwaukee with the Bucks down 2-0, which makes Game 3 an extremely important one for the Bucks. Miami hasn’t played very good thus far, as Milwaukee has a stingy defense that has disrupted the Heat offense at times. Miami has put together those stretches of “Great” basketball that has allowed them to pull away from Milwaukee at times. In the Series Preview we discussed the Keys for Milwaukee and Miami to have success, let’s take a look at what they’ve both done right and wrong.
Let’s start with the first and most important key, Rebounding the Basketball. Miami finished 30th in the league in Rebounding to close the regular season. Milwaukee was the complete opposite as they ranked 5th in the entire league, this was an area in which they “could” have an advantage on Miami. That hasn’t been the case thus far, after two games Miami has out-rebounded Milwaukee 89-64!! That has had a huge impact on this series as Miami has had more second chance points while limiting Milwaukee’s Offensive Possessions to one shot more often than not.
While the Bucks have struggled on the glass, they have done a great job forcing turnovers. The Bucks have been known to be very active in the passing lanes, they cause deflections that often lead to transition opportunities. Monta Ellis is leading the way, through two games Ellis has accumulated six steals. Milwaukee has forced 33 Miami turnovers, the bad news is they haven’t taken the greatest care of the ball either as they’ve turned the ball over 29 times. Monta and Brandon Jennings have accounted for 15 of those 29 turnovers, Mike Dunleavy Jr has turned the ball over seven times alone.
The Bucks have done a great, great, great job limiting Miami’s “Snipers” in Battier, Allen, Miller, & Chalmers. As a team, the Heat are shooting just 31% from Three point land, the only one of those four who is shooting over 30% from Three is Chalmers(50%) and he’s only taken two attempts. Chris Bosh has stepped his game up and is shooting 60% from beyond the arch, but it’s something Milwaukee feels they can live with.
Larry Sanders has struggled to stay on the floor for the Bucks, he has 10 fouls in two games. He is their best rim protector, with him riding the bench Miami has made a living at the rim. This leads to one of the biggest keys to Milwaukee’s possible success in this series, keeping Miami out of the paint. The Bucks have truly failed in that department, Sanders averaged 2.83 blocks a game in the regular season. Due to his foul trouble, he has just one block in two games. Milwaukee as a team has just two blocks, for a team that NEEDS to protect the rim to advance this is a telling stat in this series.
If Milwaukee wishes to advance out of this round, better yet if they wish to win Game 3 than several issues need to be addressed. The Bucks have to generate a balanced attack, a team can’t be one dimensional against Miami and have success. In Game 1, both Brandon Jennings & Monta Ellis had good games while the “Bucks” struggled. Ellis & Jennings went off for a combined 48 points, while no other Milwaukee player had more than six points. Game 2 was the exact opposite as several Bucks players scored in double-figures, but none of them were Jennings and Ellis. Mike Dunleavy, Larry Sanders, and Erysan Ilyasova were the three bucks to score in double-figures while Ellis & Jennings combined to score 15 points in 75 minutes of playing time. The Milwaukee Bucks will not be able to stop Miami if they can’t put up a good fight on the offensive end, that won’t happen if they can’t form a balanced attack.
The Heat have not knocked it out of the park in terms of hitting all of their keys outlined in the Series Preview, but they have remained to be efficient. They are currently shooting 50% from the floor as a team after two games; while they’ve struggled shooting the ball from deep (31%), to still be shooting 50% overall from the floor is rather impressive.
As mentioned earlier, Miami has done a great job on the boards. They’ve actually exceeded expectations, the margin in which they’ve out-rebounded Milwaukee seems like an anomaly. Not only have they out-rebounded the Bucks overall, but Miami has out-rebounded them on the offensive glass. Chris “Birdman” Andersen has everything to do with that, of the 13 rebounds he’s collected, eight of them are on the offensive glass. They have truly been rebounding by committee, without a “true” center Miami has played small since the inception of the “Big 3”. Through two games, five Heat players have pulled down 10 or more rebounds. Andersen is one of them as mentioned earlier, the others being Haslem(11), James(18), Wade(12), and Bosh(13).
Taking High Percentage shots was one of the keys for Miami to have success, they have crossed every “t” and dotted every “i” in this department. The “Big 3” shot over 50% from the floor as a trio during the regular season, they have continued that success against the Bucks. Through two games, LeBron is shooting 60%, Bosh is shooting 55.6% from the floor and 60% from Three, while Wade is shooting a paltry 50% from the floor. This goes hand in hand with another key for Miami, ball movement. High Percentage shots don’t exist without good ball movement, Miami has done a great job moving the ball so far in this Series. It hasn’t resulted in a barrage of three pointers, but very good looks at the rim. If they continue to move the ball in this manner, those three pointers will eventually start to fall.
The last key to be discussed, the Bucks offensive firepower. Heading into this series, Milwaukee was 12th in the league in scoring at 98.6 points per game. Through two games against the Heat, the Bucks are averaging just 86.5 points per game. That’s a 12.1 difference in points scored a game, Miami has done a phenomenal job limiting their firepower. In Game 1, Miami stifled the supporting cast of Jennings & Ellis. Game 2 resulted in a different game plan, Miami focused their attention on shutting down the dynamic yet mercurial duo and letting the supporting cast hurt them. It worked out in Miami’s favor as evident by their 2-0 lead in the Series.
Heading into Game 3, Miami needs to come out and crush the emotion that the Bucks are sure to have being at home. Their is an added incentive for Miami to finish this series as soon as possible to rest up for next round should they advance. As efficient as Miami has been, they must tighten up in some areas. Ball security being one of them, the other is their focus on the defensive end. Milwaukee isn’t going to go out quietly, the Heat must be ready as the Bucks will come out swinging at home in Games 3 and 4.
Game 3 is tonight at 7pm Eastern, will the Bucks win their first game of the series?? Leave your comment below!!
Written by Wilson K. Tarpeh Jr.