A disastrous end cruelly took away what could have been a gritty road victory for the Miami Heat in the midst of a tough stretch in the schedule.
Instead, the Milwaukee Bucks outscored the Miami Heat 21-6 down the stretch in the final six minutes for the 120-119 win on Wednesday night. The two teams split the season series 2-2 with the home team winning each time.
Miami had a 14-point lead with the score 113-99 after two 3-pointers from Gabe Vincent (21 points, 8-15 FGs, 5-11 3-pt FGs, six assists) and one from Tyler Herro. All they had to do was protect the ball, take time off the clock, hit free throws and play some defense to protect the lead. While Milwaukee hit several tough shots to escape with the win, it was the Heat who were their own worst enemy with poor decision making, disastrous turnovers that led to direct consequences and stagnant offense.
Herro had an incredible offensive game with 30 points and going six of 10 for threes, including 15 points in the second quarter, but committed two costly turnovers in the closing moments of the game that helped lead to their downfall. Not only was he visibly wobbly with his handle (while the Bucks defenders were allowed to put plenty of pressure and physicality), his weak pass with seconds left in the game led to a deflection that turned what was a four point lead and possession of the ball into a one-point game after a pull-up Khris Middleton 3-pointer.
Bam Adebayo added 18 points and 12 rebounds, Duncan Robinson went 5-7 from deep for 15 points and Caleb Martin contributed 12 for Miami.
If this loss teaches the Heat anything leading into the playoffs, it’s that they need to work on end-of-game situations and inbounding the basketball. Too often the players spread out too far away, forcing the ball to be thrown high and creating an unnecessarily dangerous play. Whether or not the referees should have called a foul in the closing seconds for Jimmy Butler — who was a shadow of his usual self tonight in a bizarre performance in which he went 2-14 from the field — instead of a jump ball that allowed Giannis Antetokounmpo to tip the ball away is up for debate, but it’s on the Heat for allowing that to happen.
Vincent scored three 3-pointers in a row to give the Heat a 77-66 lead as part of an 11-2 start to the third quarter. The Bucks answered with a 15-4 run to retake the lead midway through the third quarter. Both teams traded baskets with Miami taking a 97-93 lead into the final quarter.
As tough as the loss was, it was encouraging to see how close the victory was at hand on the road against the NBA champions despite the absence of Kyle Lowry and the poor showing from Butler.
Miami will next face the Brooklyn Nets on the road tomorrow night.