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PBT NBA Playoff Preview: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat

Apr 18, 2013, 8:24 PM EST

Miami Heat's James tries to pass around Milwaukee Bucks' Jennings in the first half of their NBA basketball game in Miami, Florida

SEASON RECORDS

Miami: 66-16, best record in the league and number one seed in the East

Milwaukee: 38-44, eight seed in the East

SEASON SERIES

The Heat won three of the four matchups in the regular season, with one of the games in Miami going to overtime before the Heat secured one of those victories. But the close games were in November and December, and these two teams have been heading in opposite directions ever since.

KEY INJURIES

None.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)

Heat: offense 110.3 (Best in NBA), defense 100.5 (7th in NBA)
Bucks: offense 100.9 (21st in NBA), defense 102.3 (12th in NBA)

Differential: Heat +9.9 (2nd in NBA), Bucks -1.4 (18th in NBA)

THREE KEYS FOR MILWAUKEE:

Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, at the same time: On paper, Milwaukee should have one of the league’s deadliest backcourt tandems in Ellis and Jennings. The problem has been that when one has a big game, the other shrinks in the moment. That can’t happen against the Heat — if the Bucks are to win even a single game in this series, it’ll have to come on a night when both of their scorers light it up simultaneously.

Larry Sanders, under control: Sanders is a leading candidate for Most Improved and is on the list of guys in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. Unfortunately, he’s been out of control with the officials all season long until just recently, finishing the season tied for second in the league for the most technical fouls with 14. Sanders needs to focus on the task at hand instead of the officiating this series, especially considering the fact that the Heat were the source of one of his bigger frustrations with the referees this season.

Limit transition opportunities defensively: The Heat are devastating in a lot of ways, but the last thing you want to see while trying to defend them is LeBron James or Dwyane Wade running free on the fast break, while outnumbered in transition. Milwaukee has to get back defensively and make Miami work for its offense in its half-court sets.

THREE KEYS FOR MIAMI:

Don’t overlook the opponent: The last time Miami faced Milwaukee, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh both sat out, yet the Heat cruised to a double-digit victory anyway. That was only a little more than a week ago, and with Miami at full strength to open the postseason, it might be tempting to view this series as already being won. As long as the Heat bring playoff energy to their performance, they should be more than fine in this series.

Contain either Ellis or Jennings: It doesn’t matter which of the Bucks’ guards the Heat decide to shut down; either is capable of going for 30 on any given night, Miami simply can’t have them both get going at the same time.

Do what you do best: The Heat play dominant, championship-level team defense when they want to, and when they do, it leads to fast break opportunities that are impossible for the defense to stop. Let the defense lead to offense as it has all season long, and Milwaukee, like most teams, will be in deep trouble for the majority of this series.

OUTLOOK

While the Heat have peaked in the second half of the season by entering the playoffs on a ridiculous run of winning 37 of their last 39 games, it’s been the opposite for the Bucks, who have struggled as of late and closed the season by winning just four times in their last 16 games. This series will be a bloodbath pure and simple, unless the Heat take their foot off the gas and approach one of the games in the series as if it were a meaningless regular season game in November. Not likely.

PREDICTION

If the league allowed a series to end in three games, this would be the perfect candidate. Since that’s not an option, Heat will sweep in four.

  1. canehouse - Apr 18, 2013 at 11:16 PM

    We HEAT fans aren’t so sure about a sweep… yes the HEAT should have the broom ready… but the Bucks have some deep threat shooters that can get hot and steal a game.

  2. justaride88 - Apr 19, 2013 at 1:47 AM

    With Bulls missing Rose, Pacers missing Granger, Boston not having Rondo and Knicks have theyre key players pretty banged up as well, I can’t see anyone who has a legitimate chance at beating Heat. They should get to Finals much more easier than a year ago.

  3. kavika6 - Apr 19, 2013 at 6:06 AM

    It’s too bad the Heat don’t really have to EARN their way to the finals. Teams in the west have to battle it out but the east is full of pansies.

    • soflasfinest - Apr 19, 2013 at 6:45 AM

      Cry about it some more. It’s not our fault we’re in the east.

  4. rodge1 - Apr 19, 2013 at 7:27 AM

    @kavika6

    The Heat certainly EARNED their title last year by whooping the West’s best team, even after you and the others said the West team would win.

    • money2long - Apr 19, 2013 at 10:24 AM

      the west team comes out a bit more beat up in comparison to how beat up the team from the east arives to the finals. just keep that in mind. i hope that doesn’t sound like i’m taking anything away from what miami accomplished.

      • miamatt - Apr 19, 2013 at 12:27 PM

        There might be some truth to that and kudos to you for clarifying that you aren’t taking away from the Heat, just making an observation. The west is much deeper than the east, though it also might be fair to say the east is more physical.

        It should be mentioned that last year it was OKC who beat the Lakers in five (after a sweep of Dallas) in the 2nd round and then ran away from the Spurs in six while Miami was getting bludgeoned by Indiana and Boston. I would hardly say that OKC was more beat up than the Heat, and they got to open up at home to boot.

        We’ll see if things play out differently this go-round.

  5. badintent - Apr 20, 2013 at 2:22 AM

    Larry has been playing better and better as the season has gone on. If he’s a RFA he could cash in.
    Look for him to dominate cash rich, but jewerly poor Bosh.

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