Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks Prediction
Miami’s point-of-attack defense featuring Tyler Herro and 37-year-old Kyle Lowry is extremely troubling because they struggle to navigate screens and stay in front of drivers. Miami is subsequently 20th defending pick-and-roll ball handlers based on opponent points per possession (via NBA.com), and that’s with DPOY candidate Bam Adebayo patching up the defense. Unfortunately, Adebayo is questionable here due to a hip contusion, which will either reduce his mobility or completely sideline him.
Enter All-NBA superstars Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who form one of the deadliest pick-and-roll duos in NBA history. Lillard can easily exploit a Miami perimeter defense that struggles to handle pull-up shooters, while Antetokounmpo exposes Miami’s lack of size and rim protection, especially with Adebayo ailing. With these two exerting the gravitational pull of a black hole, Milwaukee’s three-point shooters will slice and dice a Heat defense that has surrendered the 12th most wide open three-point attempts per game. Factor in Antetokounmpo, Lopez, and Portis dominating the offensive glass, and Milwaukee should boost their offensive production through second chance points too.
Meanwhile, Miami’s offense is still rounding into form. They rank 21st in Offensive Rating because of poor guard depth and limited on-ball creation. If Tyler Herro or Jimmy Butler don’t initiate the offense, then the Heat struggle to generate open looks. Milwaukee can throw Giannis Antetokounmpo’s versatile defense at Butler, who doesn’t have the outside shot to consistently avoid Antetokounmpo’s length inside the arc. The “Greek Freak” stated that he wished he could have defended Butler more after their playoff loss to Miami, so I am expecting him to carry the burden and prove his point here.
Miami also ranks 29th in bench Net Rating, while Milwaukee sits at 11th. The Heat are relying on young players to fill roles that are not suited to their strengths due to a lack of playmaking guards. Therefore, their bench offense is a mess at the moment. On the other hand, Milwaukee trots out experienced veterans in Payne, Connaughton, Crowder, and Portis that each play their role to perfection.
Finally, Milwaukee will want to ruthlessly break Miami after their devastating playoff loss. Look for the Bucks to be extremely motivated here and be boosted by a home crowd that despises the Heat. Plus, Damian Lillard will want to show Miami what they missed out on by not emptying their asset chest to acquire him. Overall, the revenge angle is a legitimate factor in this matchup.
Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks Prediction: Bucks -6.5
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Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks Best Odds
The Milwaukee Bucks are sizable 6.5 point favorites here with an ugly moneyline. For Miami’s +220 moneyline to hold a positive expected value, they must win this game about 31% of the time. Otherwise, it’s a losing play in the long run.
Miami Heat Starting Lineup
Milwaukee Bucks Starting Lineup
Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks Injuries
Haywood Highsmith and Caleb Martin are both out for this contest, while Bam Adebayo and Josh Richardson are questionable. On the other hand, sophomore wing MarJon Beauchamp is out for Milwaukee.
Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks Key Matchups
Khris Middleton is still on a minutes restriction after enduring off-season surgery. He logged only 16 minutes against Philadelphia, and the former All-Star missed their matchup versus Atlanta due to rest. Middleton will play in this game, although 15-20 minutes appears to be his expected workload. He has been effective when on the court, especially from a passing standpoint; however, shooting rust may strike. If Middleton chips in a decent all-around contribution, then the Bucks are likely to cruise.
Few players have as wide of a shooting spectrum as Robinson, which makes him extremely streaky. He’s coming off a 2 for 10 performance from deep that sunk Miami’s offense – a poor combination with his vulnerable defense. If Robinson can scorch Milwaukee and find his shooting stroke, then their bench can keep pace with the Bucks and not lose their minutes. Otherwise, it’s a gloomy outlook for Miami’s bench.