Miami Heat will have to play near-perfect to compete with the Milwaukee Bucks

Miami Heat has to play near-perfect against the Milwaukee Bucks

The Miami Heat had little trouble with the Indiana Pacers in their first-round sweep, but if they’re going to compete and push the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, they’re going to have to play near-perfect basketball.

Against the Pacers, you can make the argument that the Heat was the deeper team from top to bottom and had the best player on the floor at all times – whether that was Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo. That simply won’t be the case against the Bucks.

You could make the argument that the Heat is slightly deeper than the Bucks, considering Miami had a top 3 NBA Rookie of the Year candidate not even getting minutes until Game 4 but there’s no debate about who the best player will be in the series.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is coming off a sensational season in which he posted career-highs in points (29.5) and rebounds (13.6), and shot 55 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range. Through four games against the Orlando Magic, Giannis is averaging 31 points, 16 rebounds, and seven assists on 61 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent shooting from 3-point range.

Giannis has been on a tear ever since the playoffs have started and hasn’t been slowed down one bit. Miami might have the defenders to possibly do so, but that wasn’t the case when the two teams met earlier in the bubble.

When the Heat and Bucks played each other in the seeding games, Giannis finished with 33 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists as the Bucks erased a huge first-half deficit to win by 14 points. Giannis didn’t miss a two-point shot in that game. He was unstoppable inside the 3-point line.

During that game, the Heat put Bam, Jae Crowder, and Andre Iguodala on him; neither proved to be all that effective. If the Heat are going to beat the Bucks, not only are they going to have to play near-perfect basketball on the offensive end, but they can’t let Giannis go 13-13 on two-point shot attempts.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

For two teams that bomb 3-pointers at an extremely high clip – during the playoffs, the Bucks are taking 40 3-pointers and the Heat are taking 33, both at a 39 percent clip – this series could come down to which team hits at a higher rate.

Miami overwhelmed Indiana with their 3-point shooting during their first-round series. So much so that it never felt like the Pacers had a real shot to win the series. If Miami can’t replicate that same success against the Bucks, they could find trouble on the offensive end with Milwaukee’s length in the paint.

The Heat’s offense is largely predicated on their ability to hit the 3-ball at a consistent clip. Miami will need to play near-perfect basketball on the offensive end and then limit (in some capacity) Giannis’ ability to dominate the paint on defense to even have a shot in this series.

Much has been made about Milwaukee’s off-and-on showing in the bubble seeding games and their lack of dominance in their first-round series. Maybe that continues against the Heat, but if not Miami might be overmatched.

The Miami Heat looked dominant, focused, and determined in their first-round series against the Pacers. Against the Bucks, it will be anything but that.