The Miami Heat won game one of their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks 115-104 Monday night behind a playoff career high 40 points from star forward Jimmy Butler. Butler added 4 rebounds and 2 assists while shooting 13-20 from the field and 2-2 from deep. Goran Dragic had another big game for the postseason-undefeated Miami Heat with 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Bam Adebayo added 12 points and 17 rebounds and Tyler Herro scored 11 points off the bench.
The big story was how the Bucks struggled from the free throw line all night, going just 14-26 with 8 of the misses coming from Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak was held to just 18 points on 6-12 shooting, and finished just an assist shy of a triple double with 10 rebounds and 9 assists. Khris Middleton played much better than he did in round one, leading the Bucks with 28 points including 4-8 from three point range. Brooks Lopez also had a great game for Milwaukee going 8-10 from the field and 4-6 from deep on his way to 24 points.
The game started fast with Milwaukee scoring 40 points in the first quarter and leading 40-29 after one. The Heat really turned up the defense after that, getting within 3 by halftime and not giving up more than 23 points in any of the remaining quarters. The Bucks actually outshot the Heat all night, but Miami dominated them on the boards finishing with a 46-34 edge. Milwaukee usually has a big advantage cleaning the glass, but Miami used 12 offensive rebounds to score 13 second chance points, 9 more than the Bucks. Another surprising outcome was the inability to keep Miami out of the paint. A usually stingy interior defense for the Bucks gave up 42 points in the paint, 16 of those coming from Jimmy Butler.
Butler put the Heat on his back when they needed him most in the 4th quarter Monday night, scoring 15 of Miami’s 23 points, and locking down on defense. Miami’s defense was in high gear all night after the first quarter, forcing 19 turnovers which turned into 28 points off turnovers for Butler and company. As he was heating up, Khris Middleton went cold, making just one basket and turning the ball over twice in the 4th. Butler and Bam Adebayo bothered Giannis all night and held him under 20 points for the first time in these playoffs. Milwaukee hopes to get starting guard Eric Bledsoe back from an injury soon, as they sorely missed his defense and shooting Monday night.
It will be interesting to see if the Miami Heat, and more specifically Jimmy Butler, can continue to make winning plays down the stretch of these close games. It’s been their recipe for success the entire playoffs so far; keep it close for 3 quarters and then let Butler take over in the 4th. For Milwaukee, they will be looking to overcome a 1-0 deficit for the second straight series. They are just the 4th one seed ever to lose the opening game of each of their first two playoff series. Can Milwaukee get back on track in game 2 like they did against Orlando? Can Jimmy Butler stay hot and continue his 4th quarter heroics? We will get the answers to these questions and more as the series progresses.
Photo Credit: Lynn Sladky/ AP
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