The Miami Heat hosted their first playoff game of the season, with the Milwaukee Bucks in town for game three of their first-round series. The Heat had an opportunity to shift the momentum of the series with their highest capacity crowd of the season.
But everything quickly went wrong for the Heat. For a third straight game, the Heat fell to the Bucks, putting them down 3-0, a deficit no team has overcome in the NBA playoffs.
The crowd was shocked to see the Heat outplayed with so much on the line. The Bucks executed a perfect game plan against the Heat, exposing their flaws and dominating them after a close first game.
Where do the Heat go from here? They are going to be determined to come out with something to prove on Saturday, playing for pride and trying to avoid a sweep.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra is determined to take it one game at a time.
“We have to take it one step at a time. We’re capable of winning a basketball game and that’s what our focus has to be,” Spoelstra said in his post-game press conference.
The Heat yet again struggled to score, putting up just 14 points in the first quarter and falling behind by 12 in the first quarter. From there, the Heat struggled to recover and the contest wasn’t much closer throughout, with nine being the smallest deficit the Heat faced after the first quarter.
Despite Butler’s best efforts, the Heat lack a pure scorer who can score at will when the rest of the team is struggling. When the Bucks need a bucket, they turn to Khris Middleton, a deadly mid-range shooter who has punished the Heat time and time again. The Heat lack that fluid scorer who can score with a defender draped on him. In three games, they have eclipsed 100 points just once, a clear problem for the team.
The Heat lost the rebounding battle for a third consecutive game, but they limited the Bucks to their lowest rebounding total of the series at 55 and their lowest offensive rebounding total at 10. Evidently, Spoelstra adjusted to a key issue the Heat had in the first two games, but the Heat struggled elsewhere.
“Tonight I thought it was more about not putting the ball in the basket than it was about rebounding,” Spoelstra noted in his post-game press conference.
Spoelstra’s offense is heavily reliant on the three-pointer so it is no surprise the Heat had their worst offensive showing against the Bucks when they shot 28.1% from beyond the arc, their lowest mark of the series.
One key issue was the Heat’s premier three-point shooter, Duncan Robinson, who missed all four of his three-point attempts and scored just two points. Miami’s offense struggles when Robinson isn’t hitting his shots, with a major part of the starting unit’s plays being dribble hand-offs from Bam Adebayo to set up a Robinson three.
With that facet of the offense nonexistent, the Heat become over reliant on Butler to carry the load of the offense, a big ask with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo guarding him. Despite adding Goran Dragic to the starting lineup, the offense still couldn’t cope with the Bucks smothering defense.
Fans flocked out of the arena after a disappointing game experience.
“The team’s effort just isn’t there, it’s kinda disappointing to see where they were last year and watch them this year. Now, I just hope we don’t get swept,” said avid Heat fan Luis Hernandez, 21.
While everything has gone wrong for the Heat, Butler is still looking towards game four, looking to forget game three.
“It’s basketball. It’s part of it. [We have to] keep our heads up, keep working [and] try to get this one on Saturday,” Butler said in his post-game press conference.
Even in dire situations, the Heat maintain hope and are ready to play hard until the final whistle, with the next one being potentially their last game of the season.