NBA Game of the Week: Bucks vs. Heat
As the NBA All-Star break quickly approaches from Feb. 17 to 19, the Eastern Conference appears to only be getting stronger. The top five seeds are separated by just three and a half games as of Tuesday night, and the sixth-to-ten seeds are separated by just four.
If the playoffs started today, both the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat would be participating, with the Bucks as the third seed and the Heat competing in the play-in tournament as the current eighth seed.
The two teams will battle in back-to-back contests this week, with one being Thursday evening and the other being Saturday afternoon. Both games will be in South Beach.
Looking at the season so far for Milwaukee, it has been all about Giannis Antetokounmpo yet again. The 28-year-old star’s marks of 31.7 points and 11.8 boards per night both rank third in the NBA as he continues to dominate on both ends of the floor, taking the Bucks with him to a 26-14 record.
Antetokounmpo’s current points average would set a career high. But in a season where individual scoring performances have been crazy high (including a season-high 71 points by Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell), his scoring has been a bit overlooked.
Last week, the Greek superstar set a new career high in points, putting up 55 against the Washington Wizards.
Outside of Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have gotten good seasons out of Brook Lopez, Jrue Holiday and Bobby Portis, who all have averaged over 14 points. All three have stuck around after being a part of the 2021 NBA Champion Bucks team.
Milwaukee has certainly needed some different faces to step up so far this year. Sharpshooter and three-level scorer Khris Middleton has missed all but seven games so far due to injury, and he hasn’t played since Dec. 15.
On the other side of things, the Heat have had an up-and-down season, sitting at 22-20.
The usual suspects have played well for Miami. Jimmy Butler has continued to play a great all-around game, Tyler Herro is averaging a career high in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game and Bam Adebayo has become a Defensive Player of the Year candidate while putting up over 20 points a night for the first time.
Yet outside of those three, the Miami offense has struggled. The Heat’s 108.8 team points per game rank near the bottom of the league.
Miami’s quiet offseason could be coming back to bite them. The only outside addition the team made to the active roster was rookie Nikola Jovic, who has seen just around 14 minutes per game this season.
Defensively, the Heat are well-coached and can compete with anybody. Yet with the Eastern Conference only getting stronger over the past few seasons, the Heat look to be slipping away from being the team that went to the NBA Finals in 2020.
As Miami looks to find its grove to get back to the top half of the East standings, Milwaukee proves to be a tough challenge.
The two matchups this week between the Bucks and Heat should be competitive, as two recent Eastern Conference Champions face off. The defensive strength of both squads and the star power in Antetokounmpo and Butler should lead to two great games on Thursday and Saturday.
Daniel Mader is a junior majoring in digital/print journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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