Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs first-round matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat was every bit as scrappy as it was pegged to be. Hall of Famer Chris Bosh’s pregame prediction that the game would come down to the last possession couldn’t have been more accurate as it took a last-second fadeaway jumper from forward Khris Middleton to seal the deal and secure a 109 - 107 victory for the Bucks in overtime.
While it wasn’t a pretty affair by any stretch of imagination, there were a few bright spots to build on and a few aspects that both teams would certainly like to address in time for Game 2.
Here’s a quick look at the (relatively) good moments:
Hot shooting from Duncan & Dragic
The Heat broke their franchise record for three-pointers made in a playoff game with 20. The lion’s share of triples came from guards Duncan Robinson (7-13 from deep) and Goran Dragic (5-10) who also led the team in scoring with 24 and 25 points respectively.
On the defensive end of the floor, the Heat virtually shut down the perimeter, holding the Bucks to an uncharacteristically low 5-31 from deep. The Heat also forced the Bucks into committing 17 turnovers and generally played a physical game that kept them out of their comfort zone for the most part.
Sizing up Giannis Antetokounmpo
Big man Antetokounmpo was held to 10-27 shooting while being forced to commit five turnovers. In characteristic fashion, the team threw a variety of coverages at him including Bam Adebayo, Dewayne Dedmon, and Trevor Ariza. In a first, (for this season), we even got to see Jimmy Butler go one on one with the ‘Greek Freak’.
The video below shows one such impressive sequence:
Ultimately though it was the help defense that played a huge role in slowing Antentokounmpo down. Here, it was nice to see guard Tyler Herro getting involved; a clear sign of the expansion of his game:
The utility of big man Dewayne Dedmon
The more I see Dedmon on the court, the more I’m impressed by his grit and hustle. One of the hallmarks of winning playoff team is the ability of its reserves to keep the momentum going and to keep the game from tipping the other way.
Dedmon continues to impress in spot minutes, here showing his utility early in the game - first giving Herro a great look off the screen and out-hustling Bucks big Bobby Portis to get the ball back, then employing the give-and-go with Herro for the hoop and the harm. The chemistry between the two will be something to watch throughout the series and I hope coach Spoelstra gives these two more burn together.
This silky smooth set play
Did anybody else notice how well this played out - the first sequence of the game was just pure magic. First Trevor Ariza and Kendrick Nunn get involved to set the flare screen, then Butler does the dribble handoff before Adebayo sets the final screen making it all too hard for the trailing Middleton to keep up. Duncan Robinson does the rest to complete this sweet symphony.
Unfortunately on the flip side, there was a lot to not like in this game.
The Heat really didn’t have much in the way of continuity, settling for a series of disjointed plays for much of the night, ultimately resulting in 17 turnovers by the end of the game and a whole host of ugly shots.
In my opinion, the matchup to watch for the rest of the series is between big men Brook Lopez and Adebayo. Lopez effectively had Adebayo guessing for most of the night on the offensive end, not knowing whether to pull up for a short jumper or lean in for a hook shot. This led to a whole bunch of awkward shots from Bam ultimately resulting in a poor 4-15 from the field.
Speaking of a poor game and tentativeness, six of the 17 team turnovers, came at the hands of Butler, who seemed to struggle all night long when deciding whether to facilitate or score the ball. His putrid 4-22 shooting performance certainly didn’t do the team any favors but it was his decision-making towards the end of the game that was concerning. Nine three-point attempts for a 24.5 percent shooter from deep isn’t going to bode well for the team.
The coaching staff clearly have their work cut out for them to ensure that the Heat don’t choke late in games.
I’d love to hear what you liked and didn’t like about this game. Comment below.