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By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Gary Dineen
The Miami HEAT fell to the Milwaukee Bucks 116-108 Friday night at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Hassan Whiteside led the way for the HEAT with 19 points. Five other players scored in double-figures for Miami. Click here for the full recap on HEAT.com.
By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Gary Dineen
The Miami HEAT face the Milwaukee Bucks Friday night at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The HEAT defeated the Bucks 96-73 in their last meeting on November 17. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What did you like about how Miami played against the Golden State Warriors?
Couper Moorhead: Nobody who has been following the HEAT this season should have been surprised that the team, relatively healthy, came out ready to play against one of the league’s premier clubs. Steve Kerr made a point afterwards to credit Erik Spoelstra for keeping his team ready to play, and for the team playing as hard as it does, and that tracks with everyone we’ve come to expect from this group, regardless of result.
Sure, there were some shortcomings, particularly a lack of scoring between the third and fourth quarters and some difficulties defending in transition, but those are hardly things you hold against a team in a game like this. And the offense was interesting in itself as the HEAT were able to attack space in pick-and-roll and take advantage of the Warriors’ length at center with lobs to Hassan Whiteside all night, but there was some natural regression at play from the perimeter (6-of-30 from three) after a few weeks where it seemed like Miami couldn’t miss for at least two quarters a night. The shot quality was consistent enough, however, against a switch-heavy defense, and combined with Whiteside’s play in the middle that was enough to give Miami a shot.
Joe Beguiristain: I liked that Miami went right to the matchup where it had an advantage. That matchup, of course, was Hassan Whiteside against Golden State’s slew of bigs. Whiteside was active and engaged from the opening tip, as he finished with 28 points and 20 rebounds for his third 20-20 game of the season. A big reason why he had success was due to the aggressiveness of the HEAT’s perimeter players. In particular, both Dion Waiters and James Johnson had little trouble getting into the paint and either finished themselves or lobbed it to the big fella. Early on, Goran Dragić did the same and had a very quick start to the contest.
Otherwise, Miami continued to play hard and remained focused on the task at hand. At this point though, that should be expected from this group. No matter who’s in, who’s out or who’s on the opposing side, the HEAT never make excuses and just compete. Guys like Tyler Johnson (who scored 18 points and grabbed seven boards against the Warriors) are the epitome of what the franchise stands for.
2: Can we take anything away from Miami’s victory over Milwaukee back in mid-November?
Couper: The Bucks are a fascinating team this year. When they lost Khris Middleton to a torn hamstring it was reasonably to expect them to struggle to stay in the playoff race, but with Giannis Antetokounmpo making a major leap and Jabari Parker making good on his talent, here they are with a Top-10 offense sitting right in the heart of the mix for the postseason.
The last game against them, however, felt like it could have been last season considering all the lineup permutations the HEAT have gone through since then. But everyone who was available for Miami in that game could be available again given that neither Josh McRoberts or Justise Winslow played against the Bucks. On Milwaukee’s side, however, Greg Monroe was out of the rotation entirely last time around and now he’s firmly back in it.
Milwaukee also scored just 80.2 points per 100 possessions that time around as they were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, and considering how good their offense has been otherwise Miami should expect a bit more of a defensive challenge.
Not to mention the Bucks are coming off a nice road win at San Antonio, with Antetokounmpo playing just nine minutes (he’s good to go, reportedly, for Friday) and Michael Beasley scoring 28 points off the bench, and surprise rookie Malcolm Brogdon has played his way into a starting role.
Joe: While things were tight through the first two quarters in that last matchup, Miami clamped down defensively and held Milwaukee to just 23.3 percent shooting in the second half. Naturally, Whiteside led the charge on that front and swatted six shots after halftime. In turn, his rim protection led to easy buckets in transition for his teammates. With Whiteside coming off one of his better games of the season against Golden State, perhaps his strong play can continue on Friday night.
Otherwise, there isn’t too much to takeaway from that last meeting with the Bucks since rotations for both teams have changed. Josh Richardson and Derrick Williams started against Milwaukee, but now Luke Babbitt has been getting most of the starts at power forward and Richardson is out Friday with a left foot sprain.
On the Bucks’ end, Matthew Dellavedova started at point guard and Greg Monroe got a DNP-CD. Dellavedova now comes off the bench, while Monroe has received much more playing time since December. In Dellavedova’s place, Malcolm Brogdon has fared very well in the starting lineup, averaging 14.1 points, 6.4 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game in his last seven outings.
3: Where can Miami find an advantage Friday night?
Couper: The Bucks have been one of the best pick-and-roll defenses in the league this year, allowing just 0.92 points per used screen, so attacking them head on with the usual diet of Goran Dragic-Whiteside pick-and-rolls could lead to some difficult shots, but the Bucks also allow three-pointers (attempts) at a fairly high rate so if those pick-and-rolls can remain enough of a threat to draw an extra defender, the spot-up opportunities should be there.
This is another game where Whiteside has a size advantage. Where the Warriors, playing Zaza Pachulia, David West and Draymond Green, often lacked the height and length to combat high passes to Whiteside, the Bucks with John Henson, Miles Plumlee and Monroe have athleticism in spades but not quite the bulk to really move Whiteside off position. There should be opportunities for him on the offensive glass and flashing in the middle of the floor for deep position.
Joe: While the Bucks have a lot of long and athletic defenders, they have struggled on the defensive end in their last 12 games. In fact, the team has tallied a 109.3 defensive rating during that timespan. As such, the HEAT should find some success offensively. Of course, it all starts with Miami’s perimeter players and their ability to attack the basket and collapse the defense. If Dragić, Waiters and J. Johnson can put pressure on Milwaukee, the HEAT should be just fine.
On the flip side of the ball, things might be a little tougher for Miami. The Bucks have been quite good on the offensive end over their last 12, as they own an impressive 112.5 offensive rating. As you might expect, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker have been their usual steady selves, but Monroe and Brogdon have really emerged as well. In that previous meeting, it took a collective effort from J. Johnson and even the smaller Dion Waiters at times to limit Antetokounmpo and Parker to a combined 10-of-35 shooting. We’ll see how it all pans out this time around.
November 17-Bucks at HEAT
March 9-HEAT at Bucks
The HEAT are 11-29, while the Bucks stand at 19-18. Hassan Whiteside leads Miami in rebounds (14.4) and blocks (2.2) per contest. Giannis Antetokounmpo leads Milwaukee in points (23.3), rebounds (8.8), assists (5.6), blocks (2.1) and steals (1.9) per game. Willie Reed (bruised sternum) and Josh Richardson (left foot sprain) are listed as out.
HEAT Offense: 100.3 (29) HEAT Defense: 104.5 (10) Bucks Offense: 107.4 (8) Bucks Defense: 104.6 (11)