3 unavoidable takeaways after Bucks demolish Heat in Game 2

Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA Playoffs

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The Milwaukee Bucks demolished the Miami Heat in Game 2 of their first-round series in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Here are three unavoidable takeaways from the blowout.

Game 1 of the Milwaukee Bucks‘ first-round series against the Miami Heat was less than encouraging for the home team. Despite having title aspirations, the Bucks needed overtime to squeak out a two-point win, which came on an incredibly difficult game-winner from Khris Middleton. A win is a win, but it certainly wasn’t pretty.

Fortunately for the loyal fans at Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee wasted no time taking care of business in Game 2 on Monday, absolutely steamrolling Miami with a 132-98 victory to go up 2-0 in the series.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way with 31 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 1 block on 12-of-23 shooting. Jrue Holiday added 11 points, 15 assists and 7 rebounds, while Bryn Forbes chipped in 22 points and six made 3-pointers off the bench. The Heat were led by 19 points and 9 rebounds from Dewayne Dedmon and 18 points from Goran Dragic, both of whom came off the bench.

After an embarrassing shellacking, here are three undeniable takeaways from Game 2.

3. The Heat’s bubble run just wasn’t sustainable this year

This isn’t to say that the Heat’s NBA Finals run last season was a fluke, but rather, it was simply unrealistic to expect them to sustain it with such a short break between the championship round and the start of a new, more routine 72-game season.

Miami’s regular season was derailed by injuries and COVID complications, but a look at all four conference finalists reveals a worrisome trend. The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers struggled with injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis for half the season and wound up as the 7-seed in the Western Conference. The Denver Nuggets climbed all the way to No. 3 thanks to Nikola Jokic’s MVP-caliber play, but they lost Jamal Murray for the season due to an ACL tear. The Boston Celtics were the 7-seed in the East, and the Heat were an uninspiring 6-seed.

No one expected Miami to make a Finals run last year when they were a 5-seed either, but the bubble environment was far more conducive to those kinds of upsets: no fans, no pomp and circumstance, just hoopers confined to a space solely dedicated to basketball. Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Goran Dragic — all of those guys thrived in that environment.

That hasn’t been the case over the course of a grueling 72-game season. This year’s team is worse than last year’s, but it’s pretty obvious now that the 2020 Finals run was entirely unsustainable without much time for anyone on the Heat to even catch their breath.

2. Bucks have completely neutralized Heat stars

In Game 1, Butler hit a clutch bucket to force overtime, but that shot overshadowed what was an underwhelming performance. He may have notched 17 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists, but his 4-of-22 shooting was atrocious. He wasn’t much better in Game 2, finishing with just 10 points and 4 rebounds on 4-of-10 shooting. The game was a blowout, of course, but his plus/minus of minus-32 said it all.

Adebayo hasn’t fared much better in this series. In Game 1, he only had 9 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists on 4-of-15 shooting, and in Game 2, he had 16 points and 4 assists on 5-of-11 shooting.

Butler averaging 13.5 points per game on 25 percent shooting isn’t going to do it for Miami. Neither is Bam putting up 12.5 points per game on 34.6 percent shooting. The Heat’s star duo needs to be better if this series is going to be competitive, but the Bucks’ defense deserves a ton of credit for clamping down on those two.

1. These are not the “same ol’ Bucks”

It was only natural to be worried about the Bucks after Game 1. Despite adding Jrue Holiday and P.J. Tucker, despite being “better built” for the playoffs this year, and despite spending the whole season learning how to switch more on the defensive end, Milwaukee’s same demons seemed to lurk in the background of that series opener. Miami was far from impressive this season, yet there they were, tormenting the Bucks once again, threatening them with another upset after knocking them out of the second round last year … and that was with Butler and Adebayo shooting a combined 8-for-37.

But Milwaukee completely flipped the script in Game 2, putting an inferior Heat team in the ground and burying them in the opening frame. They had build a 46-20 lead by the end of the first quarter, and then they extended it to 78-51 by halftime win. After only making five 3-pointers in Game 1, the Bucks drilled 22 of their 53 attempts on Monday night.

It was a statement win, and it very much felt like they were reveling in the exorcism of those South Beach demons:

With incredibly talented teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers most likely waiting  for them down the road, it was time for the Bucks to step up as a playoff powerhouse and treat this lesser Miami squad accordingly. They did exactly that in Game 2, and even as this series shifts back to Miami, this was the kind of confident ass-kicking that could blow the doors off this entire matchup.

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