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Miami HEAT at Milwaukee Bucks Game Preview

The Miami HEAT face the Milwaukee Bucks Tuesday night at Fiserv Forum. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: How was Miami able to pull out the win over the Memphis Grizzlies?

Couper Moorhead: It was just about as slow a game as anyone would have expected, just a few possessions faster than the previous meeting which was Miami’s slowest game of the year. It was also a better offensive game than just about anyone would have guessed with both teams posting Offensive Ratings over 116. What ultimately had Miami in control for much of the second half was the fact that they shot 15-of-31 from three – their second-straight game hitting about half their triples – which had them plus-18 over the Grizzlies from the arc. It was still a tie game in the final minute, but a rebounding foul led to Bam Adebayo getting to the free-throw line for the lead, and the team got some timely stops from there.  Miami is now 12-11 in games within five points in the final five minutes, and here is where we make the same point we must always make about close games like this: wins and losses in those situations are determined by the smallest things, like a bump on a rebound or a jump ball, and typically things even out over time as you keep playing them.

Joe Beguiristain: Much like against Boston in the game prior, Miami moved the ball very well and neutralized one of the best defenses in the league. As a result, the HEAT drilled 15 treys on the night, with over half of those coming from Justise Winslow and Tyler Johnson.

Speaking of Winslow, the 22-year-old got off to a red-hot start against Memphis and scored all 26 of his points before the third quarter was done. In addition to knocking down catch-and-shoot treys, Winslow also finished plays at the rim and hit a couple turnaround jumpers off the bounce. Despite his herculean effort however, the Grizzlies kept things close and threatened Miami down the stretch.

Dwyane Wade wasn’t fazed though. 

With four seconds left to play, the wily vet came up with a clutch block on Shelvin Mack and forced a jump ball that he eventually back-tapped to Josh Richardson to give his team possession.

In other words, D. Wade was D. Wade.

Giannis Antetokounmpo2: What did we learn about this matchup the last time these teams met?

Couper: The Bucks had an awful offensive night, posting an Offensive Rating of 86.1, with some forces working against them. They had played a late game in Boston the night before and proceeded to score just eight points in the first quarter as Miami got out to a double-digit lead, and they shot just 9-of-43 (20 percent) from three for the evening – their worst shooting game of the season. It wasn’t all tired legs, as Miami again schemed for Giannis Antetokounmpo as well as anyone, packing the paint against his drives with James Johnson using his size to seal off driving lanes around the free-throw line and help coming whenever the Bucks’ star put the ball on the floor. Antetokounmpo shot 3-of-12 for the evening, with some bad misses on the perimeter, and he had just three assists to go with four turnovers. It wasn’t a mistake, then, that the Bucks took 43 threes – though they do shoot a ton in general – with Khris Milddleton and Brook Lopez combining to shoot 3-of-18 from outside. This matchup is all about the HEAT packing the paint and limiting one of the league’s premier at-rim scorers.

Joe: We learned that stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo is key.

Few guys in the league have as high a usage rate as the Greek Freak, who accounts for 30.3 percent of Milwaukee’s plays when he’s on the floor. As such, he leads the team in points, rebounds and assists per game on the year.

And in that last matchup, the HEAT did a great job of limiting Antetokounmpo and forcing his teammates to make plays. In particular, James Johnson ensured the 24-year-old worked for everything he got and led Miami with 12 contested shots on the night.

Still, Antetokounmpo did get going in the fourth thanks to his ability to push the ball in transition. And at the end of the day, the 6-foot-11 specimen is capable of forging through a tough night and making something out of nothing. He’s just that kind of player.

3: How might Tuesday night be different?

Couper: Not to belabor the point, but it’s all going to be about how Milwaukee shoots. Of course, Miami only shot 31.3 percent from three last time these teams met, but they got their usual shots and weren’t specifically schemed in the same way the HEAT did for Milwaukee. What’s most interesting to consider is what happens if Milwaukee does get hot from the perimeter. Does that pull Miami out of the paint for earlier contests? That’s probably up for debate, but it might take quite a bit of shooting, at least more than a hot quarter, for them to make any serious changes. Taking away the paint means making life tough on Milwaukee’s best player, so as long as Antetokounmpo is having a rough go of things – which also means being very attentive and detailed in transition defense – they might opt to stick to their plan no matter how many threes fall.

Joe: Well, it’s going to be tough for Miami to limit Milwaukee from the three-point line as much as it did in that last matchup. Sure, the Bucks are a little under league average in terms of three-point percentage, but they take the second-most treys in the league at 38.4 attempts per game. Just that sheer volume alone will make the HEAT’s last performance difficult to replicate.

But then again, Miami’s defense has been up to the challenge all year regardless of the circumstances. Guys like Winslow, J. Rich and Derrick Jones Jr. have wreaked havoc on the perimeter, while Bam Adebayo and Hassan Whiteside have done their thing inside. Of course, the zone defense has been key at certain points, but it really just boils down to staying disciplined and focusing on the task at hand.

We’ll see if the HEAT can keep up their sharp play in a tough environment on Tuesday night.

HEAT at Bucks Head To Head

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT have won six straight against the Bucks, including a 94-87 victory on Dec. 22.
  • Miami is 21-20 on the year, while Milwaukee enters the contest at 30-12.
  • The HEAT have held opponents to under their scoring average in 12 of their last 14 games.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the Bucks in points (26.7), rebounds (12.6) and assists (5.9) per game.

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 107.1 (21)
  • HEAT Defense: 106.1 (8)
  • Bucks Offense: 113.5 (2)
  • Bucks Defense: 104.4 (3)

For live in-game updates of Tuesday night’s contest, follow @MiamiHEAT, @CoupNBA and @JoeBeguiristain on Twitter.

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