Friday night marked the end of the Miami Heat’s six-game road trip, their longest of the season. And although Miami hasn’t played well at home this year, this team looked ready to head to the warm weather of South Florida by the looks of their performance tonight.
The Bucks never trailed in their 116-108 defeat of the Heat Friday night. The 41st game of the season for Miami sent the Heat tumbling to their 30th loss in what has become a dreary first season in the post-Dwyane Wade era.
The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo made this play on a fast-break early in the game, previewing what kind of night it’d be like for Miami.
The Bucks exploited careless Heat turnovers — including the one that led to that dunk — and the Heat failed to feed the ball to Hassan Whiteside in the paint, especially early. Milwaukee scored off every single of the Heat’s five first-half turnovers. Miami also committed a copious amount of fouls, sending the Bucks to the foul line 21 times in the first half alone.
Greg Monroe took advantage of a small Heat lineup when Whiteside sat on the bench. Without Willie Reed, Erik Spoelstra turned to Derrick Williams as his “backup center.” Monroe first checked into the game with 5:33 left in the first quarter. By the end of the period, he already had 12 points, easily scoring over the Heat defenders.
Miami did have some bright spots, infrequent as they may have been. Miami cut what was a 22-point deficit to eight midway through the fourth quarter with their only sustained run of the game. Tyler Johnson and James Johnson led the way for the Heat, both contributing with their dynamic offensive games. Tyler Johnson started off the fourth quarter with a nice dunk, in fact. He scored 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field, and James Johnson had 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting and 12 assists. Miami had 33 assists as a team.
After Miami got the deficit to eight, though, Dion Waiters attempted two ill-advised shots that (predictably) clanked off the rim. Waiters shot 5-for-17 from the field for the night, including one of his patented yells of “and-one!” as he launches a shot that misses the mark. He was easily Miami’s most frustrating player tonight.
Luke Babbitt had one of his better nights of the season, scoring a season-high 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field, including 4-for-7 from downtown. One of his 3s came during the Heat’s run in the fourth quarter. The Heat need confident, consistent shooting out of Babbitt, especially on nights when Wayne Ellington isn’t scoring. The former North Carolina Tar Heel shot 1-for-3 from downtown Friday night, but the one he hit pulled Miami to within 10 with 9:22 left in the game.
Rodney McGruder made a couple nice cuts to the basket — one in the first quarter, one in the third — to salvage Heat offensive possessions. This 6-foot-4 NBA rookie is starting at small forward for Miami, but he’s making strides and getting better. McGruder stands as another undrafted player Miami is modeling into a good NBA player, like Tyler Johnson of a couple years ago.
The Heat will host the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night at 7:30.