In the other half of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals, the top-seeded #1 Milwaukee Bucks square off against the #5 Miami Heat. Greek Freak and the Bucks are 6-point favorites heading into Game 1 against Jimmy Butler and the Heat.
The Heat swept the #4 Indiana Pacers in the first round. The Bucks needed five games to knock out the #8 Magic after losing their opening game.
Miami was the sole team in the east to win a series outright against Milwaukee. The Heat won their regular-season series against the Bucks 2-1.
The key to this series will be 3-point shooting. The team that defends the perimeter the best will have the edge. Both teams held opponents to 37.5% long-range shooting in the postseason.
#1 Milwaukee Bucks (56-17) vs #5 Miami Heat (44-29)
Tip-off: 3:30pm PT
Point Spread: MIL -6
Total: 223 o/u
Money Line: MIA +210 / MIL -240
According to NBA playoffs series odds by DraftKings, the Bucks are -385 odds to win the series and advance to the Eastern Conference finals. The Heat are +290 odds to pull off the series upset.
According to a recent update by William Hill, the Bucks are 3/1 odds to win the 2020 NBA Championship. The Heat are 22/1 odds to win the title.
Bucks Boycott, Still Eying Title
Last week, in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, the Bucks took action that rippled through the NBA and other pro sports leagues.
“It’s something that we did from our heart,” said George Hill. “We were tired of different things going on in this world. We wanted action, we wanted things to be held accountable, and we decided to do this as a team.”
After the Bucks walked out of their playoff game on Wednesday, Giannis Antetokounmpo and his teammates reached out to the Blake family in Wisconsin.
“One thing that moved me as a human being was that, if you really want to accomplish something and get something done, you can,” said Antetokounmpo. “We came together as a team. His dad was tearing up telling us how powerful what we did on that day was for him and his family, and that’s bigger than basketball to me.”
Off the court, the Bucks continue to fight for justice and social change. On the court, they’re still unified in a mission to win the NBA championship.
“We’ve always been a close-knit team,” said center Brooks Lopez. “But it brought us even closer together.”
Will the Freak Stop the Heat Snipers?
The Greek Freak won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year and thwarted a three-peat from Rudy Gobert. The Freak owns the paint and he loves the opportunity to defend the rim. That’s the Freak’s domain, where he wreaks havoc by blocking and altering shots.
While the Bucks have the paint locked down, they struggle on the perimeter. During the regular season, the Bucks allowed the most 3-pointers in the league at 39.3 attempts per game. Even though the Greek Freak won the DPOY, he will be challenged to stop the Heat outside the 3-point line.
The Miami Heat knocked down 37.9% of their 3-point attempts in the regular season. They were ranked #2 in the NBA behind the Jazz at an even 38%.
In the postseason, the Heat hit 39.1% of their treys. The Bucks were right behind them ranked #6 with 38.3% from downtown.
Then again, if the Bucks generate enough points, they won’t have to worry about a 3-point barrage from the Heat. The high-octane Bucks led the NBA in scoring averaging 118.7 points per game. In the NBA playoffs, the Bucks slipped to #6 overall averaging 116.2 points per game.
On the other side of the court, how will the Heat defend the Greek Freak when he’s on offense? Slowing down the Freak in transition will be an integral part of the Heat’s defense.
Heat Sweep, Ready for Freakish Challenge
A nicked-up Jimmy Butler took advantage of the week-long layoff to heal a minor foot injury. The Heat don’t expect the layoff will alter their approach to the opening game against the Bucks.
“We’re here to win man, home or away,” said Butler. “We’re just out here playing a Miami Heat style of basketball, playing with and for one another.”
The Heat will have every opportunity to take advantage of the Bucks’ thin 3-point defense. The Heat has a collection of sharpshooters who can inflict heavy casualties if the Bucks don’t tighten up their long-range defense.
MIAMI HEAT 3-PT SHOOTING
Jimmy Butler 57.1%
Duncan Robinson 44.4%
Goran Dragic 41.4%
Andre Iguodala 42.9%
Miami Team 39.1%
In three regular-season games against the Bucks, Duncan Robinson (13.5 ppg) feasted off their soft perimeter defensive. Robinson sniped 13-for-25 from downtown, or 52%. In four postseason games, Robinson averaged 44.4% from beyond the arc. He lit up the Pacers in Game 2 with a 7-for-8 night.
Butler doesn’t take many treys, but he leads the Heat by knocking down 57.1% of them in the postseason.
“I keep telling JB to shoot more,” said Robinson.