• Milwaukee Bucks at Miami HEAT Game Thread and Preview

    Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT host the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Bucks 116-108 in their last meeting on January 13. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: What was your main takeaway from Miami’s victory over the Dallas Mavericks? Couper Moorhead: Mainly that Miami found a way to win a close game down the stretch. Much was made of the interesting Hassan Whiteside-Dirk Nowitzki matchup at center, and while Nowitzki earned more open jumpers on the perimeter than Whiteside got efficient looks inside overall, with the rest of the Mavericks so unwilling to challenge Whiteside in the paint those open pick-and-pop looks became one of the only options for Dallas when mostly starters were in at the end. This was especially true when Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews were off the floor to start the fourth quarter, when you got the sense Dallas was trying to hang in long enough to buy their closers some rest, but when James Johnson effectively shut down Barnes in the post the Mavericks were again left with mostly perimeter shots. Miami’s offense enjoyed an explosive performance from Goran Dragic, but it was their defense throughout the quarter which kept Dallas at bay. Joe Beguiristain: My main takeaway was that Miami continued to play solid defense and got out in transition whenever the opportunity presented itself. After limiting Houston to 40 percent shooting on Tuesday night, the HEAT forced the Mavericks to shoot just 38.1 percent after halftime. In particular, Rodney McGruder and Dion Waiters did a nice job of defending Wesley Matthews, while Tyler Johnson made things tough on J.J. Barea. When you couple that with yet another fantastic offensive outing from Goran Dragić (32 points on 11-of-15 shooting), you have yourself a recipe for success. As a whole, Miami’s improved defense of late has allowed the team to get easier buckets on the other end. In fact, the HEAT have tallied a plus-6.5 net rating over the past two games, which is pretty good. Of course, it’s a very small sample size, but things are trending upward on what has become a nice little run this week. 2: What did we learn from last week’s game against Milwaukee? Couper: These aren’t the defense-first Bucks that you might be used to. Milwaukee is sitting comfortably as a Top 10 offense right now, with news that one of their best scorers in Khris Middleton could return around the All-Star, and they showed why against a Miami team at the end of a six-game road trip with a relentless attack in the paint coupled with efficient outside shooting. Some of this can be attributed to tired legs for Miami. Slow rotations to the rim led to a number of dunks and layups, and 13 offensive rebounds kept allowing Milwaukee to put pressure on those same rotations. Rested and at home, some of that should be cleaned up, but we also have to note that Greg Monroe was back in Milwaukee’s rotation for this one and the scoring combination of him and Michael Beasley proved to be too much once the HEAT were playing from behind. The good news is that Miami did pretty well scoring themselves, especially in hitting 12 threes, but when they opened the game with a 30-point quarter the Bucks were scoring 42. Joe: You may remember that game for a few monster jams in transition from Giannis Antetokounmpo. To put it simply, the “Greek Freak” lived up to his moniker and nearly notched a triple-double against Miami on January 13. That said, the HEAT actually outscored the Bucks in the second half and fought back to cut the deficit to 99-91 with 7:53 to play. Naturally, both T. Johnson and James Johnson led the charge on Miami’s comeback bid, combining for 10 points, eight assists and two blocks in the fourth. Unfortunately, Antetokounmpo proved to be too much in the end and helped seal the deal for the Bucks. Since then, nothing has really changed for the newly minted All-Star, as he’s been on an absolute tear over his last five games. While he’s been fantastic, we also learned from that last matchup that Milwaukee has a decent amount of depth at a number of positions. In particular, Greg Monroe and Michael Beasley have been the catalysts for the team off the bench. Ever since Beasley’s offensive explosion against the Spurs on January 10, he’s received more playing time. Monroe, meanwhile, has experienced nearly the same increase in minutes in the month of January. 3: How can Miami do a better job of slowing the Bucks’ offense this time? Couper: While the HEAT only wound up with 8 turnovers, many of those came early and helped Milwaukee to get out in transition where Giannis Antetokounmpo was seemingly dunking from the free-throw line. As talented as the Bucks are, you can grind their offense down a little just by keeping bodies back in transition and getting your defense set. If that means being a little less aggressive on the offensive glass then that’s probably a fair trade. Otherwise, it’s everything we mentioned before. Back at home, just defend with more energy and more awareness. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting back to what you normally do and being better. Joe: For starters, the HEAT could do a better job of taking care of the ball. A big reason why the Bucks jumped out to such a quick lead was due to a few early turnovers by Miami. While the HEAT cleaned things up later in the contest, Milwaukee established a nice rhythm in the first quarter and rode that momentum until Miami came back in the fourth. Otherwise, the HEAT have to turn Antetokounmpo into a jump shooter. Although he’s started to knock down the mid-range jumper recently, you’ll live with that over giving up an easy drive to the bucket. Like with any great player, it’ll take a collective effort from McGruder, J. Johnson and even Waiters to limit the 22-year-old as much as possible. Highlights: January 13-HEAT at Bucks November 17-Bucks at HEAT Game Notes: The HEAT have won two straight and are 13-30 on the year. The Bucks have lost four straight and are 20-22. Goran Dragić leads Miami in points (19.4) and assists (6.3) per game. Giannis Antetokounmpo leads Milwaukee in points (23.5), rebounds (8.8), assists (5.6), blocks (2.0) and steals (1.8) per contest.   Efficiencies (Rank): HEAT Offense: 100.8 (29) HEAT Defense: 104.6 (11) Bucks Offense: 107.0 (9) Bucks Defense: 105.8 (18)

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