Preview Sport

NBA Playoffs previews: Milwaukee Bucks vs Miami Heat

The Milwaukee Bucks may be disappointed they didn’t finish higher in the Eastern Conference, but they will need to put that to one side as they clash with the red-hot Miami Heat – who avoided the play-in tournament in emphatic fashion.

While Miami was aided by Boston falling apart, they deserve plenty of credit for finishing the season on a 12-4 run to climb well clear of that battle. Their record of 40-32 was almost good enough to avoid the Bucks in the first round, falling just a game short of the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks, who were tied above them.

The Heat might not have a home-court advantage in the first round, but their road record wasn’t that far off their home record, with just two fewer wins recorded away from Miami. That should leave them in good stead to challenge the Bucks, but it will take more than just good fortune to slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks finished five games ahead of the Heat in third. With their Greek superstar averaging 28.1 points (making him the league’s fifth-highest scorer) and 11 rebounds per game, the key to beating Milwaukee lies in slowing him down.

Miami is one of the better-equipped teams to do that, boasting the fourth-best defensive record in the competition, but very few teams have been able to create an effective plan against Antetokounmpo. Across a seven-game series, doing it consistently is almost an impossible challenge, and Miami’s attack simply isn’t good enough to run with that of the Bucks.

It’s not just the danger of Antetokounmpo that makes his side so excellent on the attacking end of the court. The team, with 120.1 points per game, are the league’s leading scorers and create a stack of extra possessions as the second-best rebounders, putting up a tick over 47 per game. With all of Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Elijah Bryant averaging more than 15 points per game across the key positions, they have talent all over the floor, and whether in the zone or man-to-man defence, opposition teams always have threats to face right across the floor, making defending the Bucks a near-impossible exercise.

Miami will be relying on lockdown defence to get them over the line, but that is tough to play against so many threats, plus the added problem of efficient three-point shooting, where the Bucks sit fifth for three-pointers made. Still, the Heat’s best chance may be in exploiting the ball control of Milwaukee, which can be sloppy at times. They are in the bottom half of the league for turnovers, while Miami sits fifth for turnovers forced, with 14.3 per game. If they can gain extra possessions that way (utilising their top-ten ranking in steals) and force the issue with an increased shooting percentage and efficiency on offence, they could cause a scare.

But with only a middle of the road shooting percentage at 46.8%, it’s unlikely to be enough, and they’ll be relying on individual brilliance from Jimmy Butler (21.5 points and 7.1 assists per game), and Bam Adebayo (18.7 points and 9 rebounds per game) to help them out.

Prediction: In truth, this series looks fairly lopsided. An off night for the Bucks coinciding with a big game from Butler might sneak the Heat over the line in one of their home games, but Milwaukee should enjoy some days off before the second round.


Bucks in 5 games. $1.50 at PlayUp


For free and confidential support call 1800 858 858 or visit