The Miami Heat’s upset over the Milwaukee Bucks last year stands as perhaps the team’s biggest upset playoff victory — knocking off the No. 1 overall seed in just five games. And yes, Jimmy Butler was amazing. Who could forget his 40-point performance in Game 1, or when he scored on Giannis Antetokounmpo during that dominant Game 3 fourth quarter and yelled “He can’t guard me” to the Bucks bench?
Jimmy Butler scores on Giannis in clutch, looks right at the Bucks bench and says “He cant guard me.” pic.twitter.com/uruqgcvFdS— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) September 5, 2020
But aside from Butler’s greatness, Miami also pulled off the upset thanks to varied contributions from other players. Goran Dragic averaged just shy of 20 points in the series. Jae Crowder offered strong defense and accurate 3-point shooting. In the closeout Game 5, the Heat trailed in the first quarter before bench players Tyler Herro, Kelly Olynyk and Andre Iguodala settled things down.
Goran Dragic was doing Goran Dragic things in the 1st half:— x - Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 1, 2020
19 Pts pic.twitter.com/bE4lE38wg3
Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk are both no longer with Miami. Dragic has regressed, and it seems ambitious to expect he’ll deliver another superb playoff performance this year. How can the Heat recapture that same balanced attack?
For one, a couple of players who had sub-par series last September — Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson — could play better this time around. Nunn’s struggles in the Bubble relegated him to just 13.3 minutes per game in last year’s second-round series, but he’s been more consistent than Dragic and Herro this year. And Robinson shot just 35 percent from 3 against Milwaukee last September. He’s capable of shooting better.
And though Trevor Ariza lacks the strength of Crowder, he has more height and length than him. Crowder started games defending Antetokounmpo in last season’s playoff series, and I’d expect Ariza to do the same here. If he can hold his own on defense and knock down 3s at a respectable clip, Ariza will have done his job.
Olynyk served as Adebayo’s backup in last season’s semifinals, and Dewayne Dedmon will get that role this year. Dedmon and Olynyk are different players — Olynyk a floor-spacer who can handle the ball, Dedmon an interior finisher and rebounder. Dedmon can offer a presence that Miami didn’t have last September.
The Heat will need Butler and Bam Adebayo to play like All-NBA and All-Defensive Team players in this first-round playoff series. But to pull off another upset and embarrass the Bucks yet again, the other players need to contribute.