If the Milwaukee Bucks lean towards socialism, the Miami Heat are a hereditary dictatorship.
The Bucks have won four of their last six games on the backs of bench and starter chemistry that would make Walter White smile. Conversely, the Heat have steam-rolled to an 8-1 record over their past nine games (last Sunday vs. Milwaukee being their only loss) with LeBron James playing in another stratosphere.
Milwaukee Bucks: 99.1 (20th)
Miami Heat: 106.3 (1st)
Milwaukee Bucks: 99.6 (16th)
Miami Heat: 97.2 (9th)
Milwaukee Bucks: 95.1 (11th)
Miami Heat: 95.5 (6th)
Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings, Shaun Livingston, Carlos Delfino, Luc Mbah a Moute, Drew Gooden
Miami Heat: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony
Box Score Advantage(s): Hot Hot Paint
The Miami Heat rank ninth in total rebounding rate (51.25), which is the average percentage of boards a team snaps up each game, while the shorthanded Bucks frontline has been fairly atrocious on the glass this season, ranking 26th overall in TRR (48.09). Milwaukee’s rebounding illness is predictable, but their soft interior has bigger issues against Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, and LeBron.
Miami ranks third in makes at the rim (17.3), and sixth in attempts (26.3). Milwaukee also fairs pretty well at the rim with no real post-up threat (15.2-23.1 – ranked 14th and 18th, respectively) mostly from off-the ball cuts and solid ball movement around the perimeter. Interestingly enough, the Bucks and Heat finish at the cup 65.8% of the time.
However, Milwaukee is going to have major issues against the NBA’s top paint defense. Miami leads the league in opponent field goal percentage at the rim (56.4%), and doesn’t ask their aging big men (minus Chris Bosh) to do much more than chill inside and swat at the round orange thing if it gets too close. James and Wade are also elite help defenders, so the Bucks will need all of their chemistry juices to flow early on if they’re going to get any good looks inside.
Matchup to Watch: Bucks bigs vs. Chris Bosh
According to Synergy Sports, Chris Bosh averages 1.28 points-per-possession as the roll man in a pick and roll (5th in the NBA), and 1.38 PPP off cuts towards the basket (13th). Carlos Delfino and Luc Mbah a Moute have been solid isolation defenders this season (allowing .62 PPP and .76 PPP, respectively). They’ll be spending most of their time switching off between the iso-happy Wade and James pairing. That leaves the remaining Bucks big men in charge of Bosh. It could get ugly.
Between Drew Gooden, Ersan Ilyasova, and Larry Sanders, only Ersan has a points-per-possession below 1 defending the pick and roll man (.57 PPP). The good news is they’ve encountered that situation a combined 20 times, but against one of the best in the league, a sample size really is not necessary. This could get ugly, even if Mbah a Moute and Delfino stay glued to LeBron and Wade all night.
Bottom Line: You don’t burn the Heat twice
The Heat were swept by two teams in 2010-11: the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks. The former faced Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, while the latter bested the Heat in the Finals.
The Bucks best chances for an upset in a home game with a road twist (thanks to LeBron/D-Wade fans) lie in their ability to win the turnover battle and hit jumpers. The Heat average 18.8 turnovers in losses this season, compared to 14.4 in 16 wins, and average 2.5 fewer caused turnovers in those losses.
With a healthy Dwyane Wade, expect the Heatles to come out motivated to avenge last Sunday’s 82 point showing against Milwaukee. With little size inside, the Milwaukee Bucks will have a very tough time preventing LeBron and Co. from getting to the rim whenever they please.