Three Thoughts on the Bucks’ Blowout Game 2 Win Over the Heat

Milwaukee's stifling defense and backcourt dominance helped the Bucks cruise to take full control of the first-round series.

After a nail-biting, down-to-the-wire Game 1 win, the Bucks made quick work of the Heat en route to a 132–98 Game 2 victory on Monday. Milwaukee outscored Miami 46–20 in the first quarter and never looked back, cruising to a decisive win. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 31 points in 31 minutes, adding 13 rebounds and 6 assists for good measure. After hitting only five threes as a team in Game 1, the Bucks combined to hit 22 on Monday. All you need to know about the Heat’s night is Dewayne Dedmon was their leading scorer with 19. Here are three thoughts on the blowout.

Milwaukee’s defense is peaking.

A lot will be made about the Bucks’ shooting in Game 2. Their defense was just as impressive. Milwaukee practically choked out the Heat’s offense thanks in large part to stifling ball pressure that flummoxed Miami. Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Donte DiVincenzo in particular in the first quarter were relentless, pressing up on the Heat’s guards and exposing their lack of secure ballhandling. (Holiday has been remarkable in both games of this series, and is proving to be a massive upgrade over both Eric Bledsoe and George Hill from last season.) Miami is simply struggling to bring the ball up the floor through two games. The Heat haven’t been getting into great offense to begin with, and it’s taking them a long time to even get into those sets.

The Bucks’ length is clearly an issue for the Heat, and on top of that, Milwaukee is forcing Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler in situations they don’t want to be in. Adebayo is being dared to take over the offense as he faces conservative coverages, while Butler is being cornered into taking jumpers as Giannis and Brook Lopez deter him from the paint. Obviously the offensive explosion mostly propelled Milwaukee to its Game 2 win. The defense can’t go overlooked, though.

Milwaukee Bucks beat Miami Heat in Game 2

Gut check time for Jimmy and Bam.

The Heat failed as a team Monday. The energy and focus were not there, and the Bucks are successfully exploiting their opponent’s weaknesses. But Miami ultimately needs more from Butler and Adebayo in this series.

Both put up their second straight stinker, combining to shoot 9-of-22 in Game 2, which puts their total at 17-of-59 in the series, or 28.8% from the field. The Bucks are doing a great job of slowing both players down. Giannis’s length allows him to keep a cushion on Butler while still being able to contest any possible midrange jumpers. Lopez is hanging out in the paint on pick-and-rolls, which has Butler hesitant to get to the rim and draw free throws, the bread and butter of his offensive game. There are no easy answers for Miami, and it can’t win this series without Butler at his best.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee’s scheme is also putting a spotlight on Adebayo. The Bucks don’t believe he’ll take advantage of the space he’s being given, and so far that gamble has paid off. Adebayo was a little bit more aggressive in Game 2, but not so much that Milwaukee couldn’t still live with its coverages. Essentially, if the Bucks are giving Bam room, he has to make them pay in such a way that he draws more attention and makes life easier for his teammates. For Adebayo, that means consistently taking and making midrange jumpers, and also confidently finishing at the rim—even if Lopez is lurking. That’s easier said than done. And yet the Heat have precious few other options.

Are These the Bucks We’ve Been Waiting For?

Sometimes I wonder if the Bucks’ playoff “failures” have been a little overblown. In Giannis’s first MVP season, he lost to another all-time great in Kawhi. And last year, the season suspension and bubble made it difficult to discern what was real and what was not. Milwaukee looked like a supremely confident team Monday, and also looked as if it exorcised some demons by humbling a Heat team many expected to give the Bucks problems.

Though the series is far from over, a dominant showing like the one in Game 2 typically portends bad things for the one on the losing end. The Bucks are finally playing as if they know they’re the better team. With more cards for Mike Budenholzer still to play (like downsizing with Giannis at the five), even if it may be only one game, Milwaukee is starting to perform up to the expectation it set over the last three seasons. 

More NBA Playoffs Coverage:

How the Clippers Can Slow Luka Dončić Down
• Utah's Journey from Dysfunction to Dominance
How the Suns Became Contenders Ahead of Schedule
• Whose Legacy Could Get the Biggest Bump This Postseason?