The Miami Heat failed in their quest to sweep the Milwaukee Bucks with a 118-115 overtime defeat in Game 4 on Sunday, despite the loss of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo early in the second quarter.
Playing down to the competition and perhaps too conscious of their 3-0 series lead, the Heat proceeded to trade baskets with the Bucks for the rest of the game and ultimately paid the price for it with Khris Middleton enjoying a dominant third quarter and knocking down clutch shots in the overtime period for the improbable win.
Largely abandoning the offense that had earned them seven consecutive wins to open the postseason, Miami also failed to force turnovers and generate easy baskets in transition. As a consequence, the Bucks hung around and there was never a sustained run in order to impose their will on the game.
Antetokounmpo crumbled to the floor two minutes into the second quarter after attempting to wrap his foot around Andre Iguodala on a move to the basket and never returned to the game after splitting a pair of free throws. He had been listed as questionable for today after spraining the same ankle in Game 3 but didn’t appear to show any lingering affects from the injury to start the game, finishing with 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting in just 11 minutes. His status for Game 5 and beyond is unclear at the moment.
Middleton more than picked up the slack, finishing with 36 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 48 total minutes. Not only did he score 21 points in the third quarter, his clutch 3 late in overtime essentially clinched the victory.
Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 26 points on an efficient 10-13 shooting and Duncan Robinson bounced back from a shooting slump with 20 points on 6-12 shooting from beyond the arc, but got precious little from the bench aside from Tyler Herro’s 11 points in 33 minutes, which includes a pair of late 3-pointers that gave the Heat a chance to steal the game. Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic each scored 17 points and fellow starter Jae Crowder scored 18 points, but there wasn’t a go-to scorer that put the team on their back late in the game to complete the sweep.
As a team, Miami scored 71 of their 115 points in the first and third quarters but squandered several opportunities late in the game to put away the shorthanded Bucks once and for all. Adebayo was punishing the Bucks inside for their lack of rim protection after Giannis — the recently-named Defensive Player of the Year — left the game, but too many second-half possessions ended with Heat players jacking up three-pointers for lack of a better offensive option with little success.
Having said that, the Bucks and Middleton had to play masterfully as well as hit several difficult shots in order to barely beat the Heat in overtime. Miami still has three more opportunities to beat the Bucks, who may still be without Antetokounmpo for the foreseeable future, with Game 5 set to tip-off Tuesday at 6:30pm on TNT.