NBA Playoffs
NBA PLAYOFFS PREVIEW 2021: #3 MILWAUKEE BUCKS VS #6 MIAMI HEAT (Ariel Stull / Vendetta Sports Media)

The NBA Playoffs are finally here, and the matchup between the Bucks and the Heat, a rematch from last year’s conference semifinals, is going to be a fun one. Miami has amped up their intensity after a poor first half of the season – at one point, the reigning Eastern Conference champs were not even in line for a playoff spot, but they have climbed back into the sixth seed. Milwaukee once again finished as a top-three team in the East, led by their new big three of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and new addition Jrue Holiday. This Bucks team has been to the playoffs year after year and has come up short every time. Could Holiday prove to be the piece Milwaukee needed?

Why The Bucks Win This Series

Milwaukee is out for revenge. The Bucks finished with a league’s best record the previous two seasons and failed to win the conference finals in either, losing to both the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Finals and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Semifinals 4-1. This season, however, Milwaukee has some newfound advantages. Miami had a top 10 defense last season, as well as one of the most efficient offenses in the league, but they are outside the top 10 in both categories this year. The Heat also play at one of the slowest paces in the league, averaging only 108 points per game compared to the Bucks 120. The difference in offensive production could be costly to Miami as they may not have the firepower to match the Bucks bucket for bucket down the stretch. The Bucks also now have Holiday, a two-way beast who is capable of shutting down his matchup, most likely either Goran Dragic, Kendrick Nunn, or Tyler Herro, every game. Holiday’s lateral quickness and athletism are often disrespected because of his smaller stature and the general disdain for defense in contemporary basketball, but he should get proper respect after he goes for 4+ steals or blocks in multiple games in this series. Finally, Milwaukee added several role players who will be keys to playoff success: PJ Tucker and Bobby Portis. Tucker’s ability to guard multiple positions gives the Bucks a huge advantage to their bench play and overall matchup flexibility. Tucker can match up with Heat center Bam Adebayo for a few possessions and then switch to guard star forward Jimmy Butler just as well. Portis has been lights out this season from three-point range: an insane 47%. Milwaukee is simply more dangerous on both the offensive and defensive end. They have a 7-foot unguardable Greek Freak who can go for 40 on any given night surrounded by talented shooting. Miami, pick your poison.

Why The Heat Win This Series

Miami has played their best basketball of the season in the last 20 games, and there isn’t a better time to start heating up than going into the playoffs. Even though Miami averaged fewer points than Milwaukee, their players are more efficient offensively, not to mention Miami has six players, Butler, Adebayo, Dragic, Nunn, Herro, and Robinson, who are capable of scoring 20 in any game. However, the Heat were plagued by injuries all season, with Butler and Adebayo both in and out of the lineup all season long. In all likelihood, Miami will not be able to limit the Bucks to 100 points per game, so their best option is to up their speed and run with Milwaukee. Eric Spoelstra might be the key to Miami’s success – he must find a defense that keeps the ball out of Antetokounmpo’s hands as much as possible. Adebayo can guard Antetokounmpo well, he is a defensive player of the year candidate this season and should win at least one DPOY before his career ends. Butler averaged 23 points per game in this series last year and will have to do the same this year, as the Heat will desperately need not only his scoring but his playmaking and his defensive ability. Miami can make another finals run if Butler can get the team to play at his pace while Adebayo gets his usual 20 points and 10 rebounds, but they must get past Milwaukee first.

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My Prediction

Bucks in five. Milwaukee is coming for blood after they fell apart against the Heat last year. The Bucks are more athletic and better on both sides of the ball, so no Spoelstra game plan will limit the Bucks enough for Miami to stay in these games. The Heat will have to play their best basketball to have a chance of keeping pace with Milwaukee, and the odds of them matching Milwaukee’s scoring for an entire series are low, especially with the Heat’s injury concerns continuing to loom over the team as the postseason begins.

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