The Miami Heat was outplayed in virtually every area during game two of their playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks. In game three, scheduled for 7:30 tonight, the Heat should stay encouraged and play to their strengths, including driving to the basket.
The team is now down 0-2 against the Bucks in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. They are familiar with mounting comebacks from 0-2. The Heat claimed its first championship after overcoming an 0-2 deficit against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 finals.
The Heat will host the Bucks at the American Airlines Arena with an increased seating capacity of 17,000 for the game, matching the Bucks’ Fiserv Forum’s capacity of 17,341. Social distancing between the seats will no longer be enforced, giving the team the best home-court advantage possible. The Heat will definitely need this change in atmosphere and energy to tie up the series.
The first half of Monday’s game was a shooting clinic for the Bucks. Three-pointers rained down on the Heat at a staggering rate. At the half, the Bucks had shot 15 of 29 from beyond the arc compared to the Heat’s 4-13. Moving forward, the Heat must try to relocate the defense onto outside shooters like Bryn Forbes and Pat Connaughton.
Forbes alone made five three-pointers in the first half, troubling the Heat’s defense that was focused on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Although this might have seemed like a smart tactic, the Bucks’ shooting throughout Game two indicated a defensive lapse that must be addressed immediately.
The Heat’s shooting paled in comparison. The team was 8 of 28 from three by the end of the game. Duncan Robinson was the leader with only two triples. This was a product of poor ball movement and floor spacing. It was made worse because the Bucks’ big men, Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez, clogged the paint and guarded the perimeter.
In game three, the Heat should continue to shoot from deep and drastically improve on its perimeter defense — placing extra importance on Forbes, who shot an impressive 45% from three in the regular season.
Backups have also struggled for the Heat. The bench scored a combined 53 points compared to the Bucks’ total of 61. Players like Tyler Herro and Andre Iguodala were sluggish on the court, with Iguodala giving up three turnovers, one a result of a bad back pass in the first half.
Herro, especially with his agility and capable shooting, should be more aggressive in Game three. He ended up scoring a measly four points on 1 of 5 shooting. He was hesitant on every play, missing out on key scoring opportunities.
Although the Heat’s bench players put on a disastrous display, one silver lining in Game 2 was center Dewayne Dedmon. He was the Heat’s leading scorer with 19 points. He chased down every loose ball, hustled consistently throughout the game and played with a heightened level of confidence, even making a rare three-pointer. But Dedmon cannot be the Heat’s leading scorer if the team wants to win game three. Starters like Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo need to step up and play aggressively.
The game plan thus far has not worked. Big changes are needed. One possible area for a shake-up is the starting lineup.
Kendrick Nunn has struggled with the starting unit, averaging just over nine points a game through two games. Nunn has also struggled to make an impact on the defensive end. Replacing Nunn in the starting unit is familiar. Goran Dragic took over for him in last year’s postseason.
Starting Dragic could bring a spark to a starting unit that lacked any scoring in game two. Dragic is averaging 21.5 points per game so far in the series and is the closest thing the Heat have to a true point guard who can create for others — a true weakness right now.
Not having a true point guard in the starting unit has cost the Heat so far, with nobody to create easy baskets for players like Butler, Adebayo and Robinson. While Dragic could bring that to the starting unit, the worry is that with Herro’s struggles thus far, the bench would be left shorthanded.
Another possible shakeup could be inserting Dedmon to cope with Milwaukee’s size, which has left the Heat outrebounded by a wide margin. The Heat was outrebounded 61-36 in Game 2, and Dedmon finished as the Heat’s leading rebounder with nine, despite playing fewer minutes than five other players.
Undoubtedly, the Heat will need to make adjustments. Winning on the road is difficult, but the game two performance lacked the heart and effort fans have grown accustomed to with this Heat team.
The Heat now has two games back in Miami to turn the momentum of this series around. They face an uphill battle against a Bucks team that is as confident as ever. But if there’s any team who can overcome adversity and turn this series on its head, it’s the Miami Heat.
Game three tips off in Miami at 7:30 p.m on TNT and Bally Sports.