Heat vs. Bucks Odds, Game 2 Preview, Prediction: Back Milwaukee’s Offensive Improvement vs. Miami (May 24)

Heat vs. Bucks Odds, Game 2 Preview, Prediction: Back Milwaukee’s Offensive Improvement vs. Miami (May 24) article feature image
Credit:

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks.

  • The Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks meet Wednesday night for Game 2 of their first round series.
  • Like their series from last season's playoffs, everything went wrong for the Bucks in Game 1 against the Heat -- but this time Milwaukee won anyway.
  • Brandon Anderson explains why he thinks the Bucks have a better shot at winning and covering tonight's 4.5-point spread.

Heat vs. Bucks Game 2 Odds

Heat Odds +4.5
Bucks Odds -4.5
Moneyline +155 / -190
Over/Under 222.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV TNT
Odds as of Sunday and via BetMGM.

The Bucks and Heat tipped off the NBA playoffs on Saturday afternoon, and now they’ll tip our set of Game 2s as well.

In an awesome weekend of playoff basketball, this series still may have been the best the weekend had to offer. We knew this series was going to be juicy after the Heat upset the Bucks in the postseason last year, and so far, it looks like the rematch will be a good one.

Game 1 was close and contested throughout, with swings back and forth all game with neither team ever truly taking control. It was the first time these teams have played at full strength all season.

So what can we learn from Saturday’s matchup that will help us bet Game 2? Let’s take a look at both teams.

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Are the Heat Too Reliant on 3-pointers?

The Heat finished the season 40-32 but won 12 of their final 16 games and entered the playoffs playing their best basketball of the season. Miami’s overall season metrics were pretty underwhelming, but the Heat also played through a heap of injuries and health protocol absences.

This is largely still the team you remember from last year’s bubble run, though they never really looked the part until late in the season. The Heat love to grind things down, play tough defense, force turnovers, and play offense mostly inside the arc.

You’d never know it from Game 1 though. The Heat lit things up from deep like they were playing in the bubble again. They made a franchise-record 20 3-pointers, making 40% of their 50 attempts. That is a metric ton of 3-point attempts, even against a Bucks defense designed to push opponents to hoist.

Duncan Robinson got his looks up early and often, in stark contrast to typical matchups between these teams. Usually the Bucks do well to take away the better shooters and force opponents’ worse shooters to take the 3s, but Robinson made a trio of 3s in the opening minutes and finished with seven makes on 13 tries. He actually made more 3s himself than the entire Bucks team.

It will be interesting to see how Milwaukee adjusts to take Robinson’s shooting away, because the Heat struggled to score when they weren’t draining 3s. Goran Dragic had a big game with 25 points off the bench and five 3s of his own, and he and Robinson finished with 49 combined.

But they needed them because Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo shot just 8-of-37 from the field. Adebayo did not make his mark on offense and seemed to struggle with Milwaukee’s size, while Butler was draped by Giannis Antetokounmpo and P.J. Tucker and had a miserable game. He went 2-of-13 on 2s and 2-of-9 on 3s, and the most shocking number there might be the nine 3-point attempts — Butler took 102 3-point attempts all season.

No one on Miami could score much outside of the 3s, and that’s a real concern because that’s where the Heat typically thrive and where they love to play. Miami was just 16-of-49 on 2s as a team, hitting 32.7% of them.

That’s not going to get the job done, but it may not be a complete anomaly since the Bucks were the league’s second best 2-point percentage defense behind only the Utah Jazz. Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez clearly made a big impact at the rim, where Miami shot only 6-of-16.

Coming into this series, I wondered if the Heat would be able to score enough to keep up. The Heat haven’t shot well on the season and rely a lot on free throws and turnovers forced for easy points. In Game 1, Miami made its most 3s in franchise history and still lost. That could be a problem.


Same Series, New Bucks

This was the exact sort of game the Bucks would have lost last year. It’s the exact sort of game they did lose to Heat in their 2020 series.

The Bucks weren’t getting the whistle, not at home, not even the two-time reigning MVP. Antetokounmpo got called repeatedly for traveling and even got the extremely rare 10-second violation called on his free throw in crunch time.

Milwaukee couldn’t make a 3-pointer to save its life, shooting just 16% on their tries, an ugly 5-of-31. The Bucks couldn’t get the whistle, Antetokounmpo couldn’t get his usual scoring going yet again in the playoffs, and the Bucks were struggling with a familiar opponent they should’ve been mentally ready for. This had all the makings of another haunting playoff loss.

That’s why it’s so significant that the Bucks won anyway.

The Bucks are the better team. We know this. They played at a 56-win pace with Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday on the court this season, while clearly experimenting defensively and taking the foot off the gas pedal some in the regular season.

The Bucks largely kept their same defensive plan overall, which is to completely eliminate 2s and free throws and force the opponent to bomb away from deep.

This season’s offense is a step above past years, particularly because the Bucks have been such a strong shooting team all season. They finished the season fifth in 3-point percentage but led the league much of the season.

Despite the close win and ugly shooting, Bucks fans have a lot to be happy about with this game. The starters played huge minutes in a playoff game, finally. Antetokounmpo played 45, Khris Middleton 44, and Holiday 42, which were buoyed by overtime minutes but still far higher than Milwaukee has played its stars in the past.

Holiday is also a clear upgrade in every way from Eric Bledsoe, as advertised, and Bobby Portis had a clear and useful role off the bench. And as poorly as Milwaukee shot on 3s, the Bucks got into the paint at will. They shot 37-of-65 on 2s, making 57% of them, and finished 22-of-27 at the rim.

The Heat made 15 more 3-pointers and lost this game. That’s 45 more points behind the arc for Miami, and Milwaukee still won by making up ground with so many high efficiency shots in the paint.

Those are the sort of shots that are repeatable, while 3-point variance evens out over time. Milwaukee shot just 1-of-12 on uncontested 3s in Game 1. Even out the shooting luck, and the Bucks suddenly look much more impressive.

Heat-Bucks Pick

I really liked this matchup for the Bucks coming into the series.

A few weeks ago on the Action Network Podcast, I said this was the playoff series I was most looking forward to betting on. This year’s Bucks are better than last year, the Heat are worse, and the confluence of events that led to last year’s upset wasn’t likely to be repeated.

I feel even better about that prediction after Game 1.

Somehow, everything was lining up for Miami yet again. The Heat made a franchise-record 20 3s, Robinson and Dragic had monster games, the Bucks missed 12 free throws and shot 16% on 3s, the reigning MVP shot 10-of-24 on 2s, and even despite all that, the Bucks won anyway.

Nothing will be certain in this series. Miami isn’t going anywhere, and these teams allow the second- and third-most 3-point attempts in the NBA, so that’s always going to mean a lot of shooting variance.

But everything I see says the Bucks are just better and that they’re in line to take a 2-0 series lead to Miami. I’ll take the home team to win again, and I like them to cover this time and win at least a little more easily.

Pick: Bucks -4.5 (to 5.5)

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