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2023 Eastern Conference First-Round Preview: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat

Bucks vs Heat
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview 2023: Bucks vs Heat

For the third time in the last four postseasons, the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat will collide. The Heat won 4-1 in 2020 en route to an NBA Finals appearance. A year later, the two met again and this time the Bucks took the series 4-0 on their way to becoming NBA Champions. In the 2022-23 regular season, the Eastern Conference teams split the series, with the home team winning each of the four matchups.

This Eastern Conference first-round series will get tipped off on Sunday, April 16. This series is unique in the fact that both teams won their divisions this year. The Bucks won the Central division, while the Heat won the Southeast division. The Heat, however, ended up in the play-in and needed two games to get into the actual playoffs after losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the 7th-place decider. 

Here’s the 2023 Eastern Conference Playoff series schedule for the Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat.

GAMEDATEMATCHUPTIME (ET)TV
Game 1Sunday, April 16Miami @ Milwaukee5:30 p.m. TNT
Game 2Wednesday, April 19Miami @ Milwaukee9:00 p.m. NBATV
Game 3Saturday, April 22Milwaukee @ Miami7:30 p.m. ESPN
Game 4Monday, April 24Milwaukee @ MiamiTBDTBD
Game 5*Wednesday, April 26Miami @ MilwaukeeTBDTBD
Game 6*Friday, April 28Milwaukee @ MiamiTBDTBD
Game 7*Sunday, April 30Miami @ MilwaukeeTBDTBD

Now, let’s have a deeper look at each team, and dissect what key questions arise in this series.

What to know about the Milwaukee Bucks:

Notable starters:

  • G: Jrue Holiday
  • G: Grayson Allen
  • F: Khris Middleton
  • F: Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • C: Brook Lopez

Rotational players:

  • G: Pat Connaughton
  • G: Joe Ingles
  • F: Bobby Portis
  • F: Jae Crowder

Take Giannis out of the lineup and this is still a very difficult team for anyone to match up with. Put Giannis in the lineup, and it is clear why this Milwaukee team is the betting favorite to win the NBA title.

With a starting five that can compete with anybody they face, it is going to be a tough night for whoever stands across the hardwood from the Bucks. Everyone knows what Antetokounmpo is capable of, but even then very few can do anything to slow him down. To make matters worse, if someone does manage to slow down the 28-year-old, then look out for Jrue Holiday or Khris Middleton to have the hot hand.

Brook Lopez is another player that could have a big role for the Bucks this postseason. The center finished in the running for defensive player of the year and adding another big body next to Giannis give the Bucks a very strong paint defense. 

Their bench is nothing special but both Pat Connaughton and Bobby Portis saw serious minutes off the bench. They also had their fair share of starts throughout the season, Connaughton started 33 times while Portis was given 22 starts.

What to know about the Miami Heat:

Notable Starters:

  • G: Tyler Herro
  • G: Gabe Vincent
  • G: Max Strus
  • F: Jimmy Butler
  • C: Bam Adebayo

Rotational Players:

  • G: Kyle Lowry
  • F: Caleb Martin
  • F: Kevin Love

The Miami Heat play a small-ball lineup with three guards and Jimmy Butler at power forward. This has worked for them when their shooting is on form, but if the shooting dips, the lack of height and post presence could be a fatal flaw.

The question surrounding who the starting point guard is is still in the air with both Kyle Lowry and Gabe Vincent being in the conversation. Lowry offers more of a threat off the bench against opposing team’s second units. This could benefit the Heat in crunch time.

There is another issue with this Heat team and that is the inconsistency that they have shown. Tyler Herro has his hot and cold games. As does Bam Adebayo. If Jimmy Butler does not have an outstanding performance then it may be a long night (or quick series) for the Heat.

Questions?

1.) How healthy will Khris Middleton be?

The Bucks’ second star is Middleton. In the first round last season, the 6-foot-7 forward suffered an MCL sprain that kept him out for the remainder of the playoffs. He then missed the first 20 games of this season while recovering from wrist surgery and another 18 games due to knee soreness. 

It looked like Middleton would be nearly fully healthy for the playoffs, but against the Chicago Bulls in the final week of the season, he re-aggravated it and missed the Bucks’ final two games. He is likely to play in this series but could see a minute restriction. If he does quickly return to near full health, he becomes another dangerous weapon for the Bucks to use.

2.) Will Brook Lopez be able to outduel Bam Adebayo?

The two centers for these Eastern Conference teams have matched up great against each other this season. The winner of the regular season meetings had to be Adebayo. Over the four meetings, he averaged 19.5 points and 10.8 rebounds compared to Lopez’s 11.3 points and five rebounds. If Lopez can assert himself against one of the better big men in the East then this series could be over even quicker than expected. 

3.) Are the Heat being overlooked?

Sure, on paper, the Bucks are the league’s best team, but the Heat are no slouches. They did win their division after all. The Heat have two wins over the Bucks this season, but those were against a Bucks team that was without Giannis. Most people do not see any chance for the Heat to get anything done against the Bucks. This mentality could be dangerous against a team that is experienced in the playoffs in Miami. 

Prediction for Bucks vs. Heat: Bucks in 5

The Bucks should have control of this series from Game 1 until the conclusion. They were the NBA’s best team in the regular season for a reason. Anytime that Giannis Antetokounmpo is on the court it’s a big advantage. Sure, Jimmy Butler can make this a bit more interesting, but the Bucks have the edge over the Heat in almost every aspect. 

I could realistically see this being a sweep for the Bucks, but I’ll give the Heat one game. There will be one game that playoff Butler appears and wills the Heat to a win. The winner of this series will play the winner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks. A quick series win for the Bucks could allow them some added rest considering the Cavs-Knicks series could very well go the distance.

***

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