3 reasons the Miami Heat will upset the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1st round of the playoffs - Heat Nation

3 reasons the Miami Heat will upset the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1st round of the playoffs

Bam Adebayo and Jrue Holiday Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat will face the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

It is a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals where the Heat handled the top-seeded Bucks in five games on their way to an NBA Finals berth.

This year, Milwaukee claimed the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed, but its win over the Heat in the second-to-last game of the regular season forced Miami into the No. 6 seed.

The Bucks’ win, and a couple of wins by the New York Knicks, cemented Miami’s fate, but the Heat have to like the position they are in given the circumstances.

Miami rebounded after a slow start to the 2020-21 campaign, and the matchup with the Bucks could be a chance for Miami to get revenge after getting knocked out of the No. 5 spot.

In the final meeting between the two this season, Milwaukee certainly could have rested its best players to set up a likely matchup with the Knicks in the first round. However, the Bucks picked their poison and beat the Heat (who were missing Jimmy Butler), which forced another playoff matchup between the two teams.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and company certainly want revenge from last season, but here are three reasons why Miami will once again be victorious against the Bucks:

1. The Jimmy Butler Effect

Jimmy Butler Miami Heat

There is no doubt that Butler completely changes Miami’s fortunes when he is in the lineup.

In fact, Butler is one of the most valuable players in the NBA from a wins and losses standpoint. This season, the Heat are just 7-13 when Butler has not been in the lineup, which would put them among the worst teams in the NBA.

But what about when Butler plays?

Miami instantly soars to the top of the NBA, as it is 33-19 in the 52 games Butler played in this year. His stats aren’t always going to tell the whole story, but Butler did average 21.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game during the regular season.

While the Heat struggled against Milwaukee this season going 1-2, Butler didn’t play in any of the matchups. In fact, he only played one game against any of the top-three seeds in the Eastern Conference this year.

This could be a cause for concern, but in reality Miami is getting its best player in the lineup for the first time against Milwaukee all season.

That certainly changes the way the Bucks will defend the Heat, and it allows Miami to play it’s regular game on both sides of the ball. The Bucks are going to be facing a whole new team from the one they saw in the regular season, and the Heat have shown that with Butler in the lineup, they are one of the better teams in the NBA.

2. Multiple Giannis Defenders

Bam Adebayo Miami Heat

Asking anyone to slow down Antetokounmpo in this series is a lot. However, the Heat have several different players that they can throw at Milwaukee’s best player.

Andre Iguodala, Trevor Ariza (who has been fantastic since the Heat acquired him), Bam Adebayo and Butler will all likely see time on Antetokounmpo in this series.

The experience of all of these defenders in big games (they all have played in at least one NBA Finals) as well as their versatility gives Miami one of the best chances of any team in the NBA in slowing down Antetokounmpo.

It may not happen, but the Heat won’t be forced to constantly throw double teams at the two-time MVP, and they held their own against him in the playoffs last season.

Even without Butler playing, Antetokounmpo averaged just 16.7 points per game in his three matchups with Miami during the regular season. That’s far below his season average of 28.1 points per game, and it goes to show that Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra knows a thing or two about scheming to stop Antetokounmpo.

Also, the Bucks superstar doesn’t seem too confident that the Bucks will be able to roll past Miami and make it out of the East this season.

Jrue Holiday adds a new dimension to this year’s Bucks team, but Antetokounmpo is the go-to guy. If Miami can continue to have success against him defensively, the Bucks’ role players are going to have to step up to win this series.

3. Ability to Control Pace

Jimmy Butler Miami Heat

This season, the Heat have played at the second-slowest pace in the NBA at 96.6 while the Bucks have played at the second-fastest pace at 102.2. Basketball Reference’s pace factor is an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes by a team or the number of possessions per game.

With two opposites playing each other, something has to give.

In last year’s playoff matchup between these two teams, the Bucks and Heat played to a pace of 96.0, which is very close to Miami’s 96.6 this season.

Playoff basketball usually renders more grind-it-out defensive possessions, and that type of game would certainly benefit the Heat.

Obviously, Miami would need to execute on the offensive end, but if the Heat can stop the Bucks from pushing the tempo, they will put themselves in a better position to win.

Controlling the pace is easier said than done, but with Butler running things as one of the team’s primary ball-handlers, the Heat can have more deliberate offensive sets to get good shots.

Butler’s iso ability also allows him to bail Miami out late in the shot clock. Spoelstra’s team worked this type of a game plan to perfection last season, and it is likely that it turns to it again in 2021.

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