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Sunday, August 30, 2020

Milwaukee Versus Miami Preview

Eastern Conference Second Round

#1 Milwaukee (56-17) vs. #5 Miami (44-29)

Season series: Miami, 2-1

Miami can win if…the Heat are able to limit Giannis Antetokounmpo's paint touches without compromising their defense against Milwaukee's three point shooters. The Heat are the only Eastern Conference team to post a winning head to head record versus the Bucks this season, and Miami's only loss to Milwaukee was a seeding game when both Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic did not play. The Heat must continue to get strong play not only from Butler and Dragic, but also Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson, each of whom averaged at least 12.5 ppg as the Heat swept the Indiana Pacers in the first round.

Milwaukee will win because…The Bucks are a well-balanced team; they can score in a variety of ways, and they are very good defensively. The Bucks are willing to concede a few three point shots to specific players, but they focus on shutting down the paint.

Antetokounmpo has emerged as the best player in the NBA for at least the past two seasons. During Milwaukee's 4-1 victory over Orlando in the first round, he led the Bucks in scoring (30.6 ppg) and rebounding (16.0 rpg) while shooting .590 from the field, and he also ranked second on the team in assists (6.0 apg). Antetokounmpo has already been selected as the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year for 2019-20, and he must be considered the favorite to win the 2019-20 MVP award as well. Antetokounmpo won the 2018-19 MVP, so if he wins a second MVP then he would join the elite group of pro basketball players who have won at least two regular season MVPs (Bob Pettit, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Mel Daniels, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry). Note that every one of those players except for Karl Malone and Steve Nash eventually won at least one championship, and most of them won at least two championships.

Khris Middleton did not have a great series versus Orlando, but he is an All-Star and I expect him to be more focused and efficient versus Miami.

Other things to consider: A shoulder injury limited Butler's minutes and effectiveness in game four versus Indiana. It is vital for Miami that Butler is at full strength, or pretty close to full strength.

I have not mentioned George Hill up to this point because I do not expect him to have a major impact on this series. I have long respected him as a solid role player, but he is not a difference maker. In the past week, it has become apparent that he has an elevated sense of his importance. I understand that these are challenging times for a variety of reasons, and I understand that it may not be easy to stay in the "bubble" with so much happening--but no one is a prisoner in the "bubble" and if I were one of Hill's Milwaukee teammates then I would tell him "Either you're in or you're out. If you're in, then stop talking about not wanting to come here or not wanting to stay here. If you're out, then go home."

I am not saying that Hill should not speak about whatever issues he wants to speak about--but I am saying that it is disrespectful to his teammates to keep talking about not wanting to be there when they are making the same sacrifices that he is making not only to pursue an NBA championship but also to use their platform to promote their perspectives about social justice. If Hill thinks that he has better things to do by himself outside of the "bubble," then he is free to give up his salary, go home and do those things. He does not seem to understand that if he were not a bench player for the best team in the East then no one would know who he is, or that if he leaves the "bubble" on his own no one is going to care what he says or does. It has been reported that during Wednesday night's heated players-only meeting Udonis Haslem--in a message clearly directed at Hill--stated that it is "irresponsible and selfish" for veteran players to talk about striking when the younger players are not in a financial position to take such a drastic step. Hill led the way regarding the impulsive strike, and then the NBA's real leaders scrambled to figure out a plan for what to do next.

If Hill left the team, the Bucks might be better off at this point, particularly if he is already as mentally checked out as he seems to be. No one is watching the Bucks to see Hill play, and--while Hill has a right to express his opinions--no one is particularly interested in hearing more about Hill's opinions.

I am picking Milwaukee in six games.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:15 AM



At Saturday, September 05, 2020 11:07:00 AM, Blogger Keith said...

Pretty stunning collapse by the Bucks. Completely outhustled by Butler and a very well coached Miami Heat team. Unless they are able to make history and use the bubble environment to rally back from 3- 0, this series is over, but it seems like they have a complete lack of will/very poor chemistry.

At Saturday, September 05, 2020 6:46:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Yes, stunning and unprecedented. Butler's ability to take over playoff games lends credence to those rumors/stories about him playing with Minnesota's reserves and beating the starters during a practice/scrimmage. He is a special player.

Spoelstra is an underrated coach, at least for casual fans who assume that LeBron James can lead any team to a championship (three championships in 16 seasons--not including the current playoffs--while playing on teams stacked with talent and/or depth suggest otherwise).

At Saturday, September 05, 2020 8:27:00 PM, Blogger Keith said...


Yes, I've always liked Butler since he broke out during the 2014 - 2015 season. He doesn't put up the most attention grabbing stats but it's clear he's very fundamentally sound and has a great work ethic. He's the type of player who isn't appreciated very well by analytics.


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