The Bucks clinched a playoff berth three days ago, and even though they faced their most likely playoff opponent, the Bucks played like a team with little to play for.
Larry Sanders lost the opening tip to Shane Battier.
Monta Ellis blooped and bobbled his way to six turnovers, including an unsolicited over-and-back violation for mishandling a dribble in open space.
Brandon Jennings‘ nap-like defensive intensity helped him earn a team-worst +/- rating of -24.
J.J. Redick hit 2-of-9 shots, and Ersan Ilyasova got pushed around in the paint far too often by Battier and Udonis Haslem.
The Miami Heat beat the Bucks, 94-83, despite the absences of both Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. LeBron James led Miami with 28 points.
Sanders, Ellis, and Jennings each had their good moments, too, especially Jennings. Brandon finished with a game-high 30 points and finished well on layups and floaters in the paint. He also hustled after an errant Ellis pass, landing in the second row along the baseline.
Ellis jumped the passing lanes to snag four steals, and Sanders grabbed nine rebounds. With the exception of a few good looks for Jennings though, the Heat were able to force the Bucks into shots Miami would definitely want them taking, shots like Ilyasova turnarounds, Marquis Daniels jump shots, and Sanders trying to create 17 feet from the hoop.
LeBron threw an alley-oop pass to himself for a dunk, so that deserves a mention:
One interesting aspect of the game was the Bucks’ use of Larry Sanders to guard LeBron James in the second quarter. It’s probably not a look that the Bucks could afford to stick with for a long period of time. But if the Heat go small and put LeBron at power forward and Bosh at center in the fourth quarter, it’s something that Milwaukee could try.
Here were the results of the possessions:
1st possession: Sanders poked away James’ dribble forcing an offensive reset. James then tried to drive and when that was thwarted, he managed to wriggle away an out-of-synch pass to a teammate on the perimeter.
After a possession where Luc Mbah a Moute guarded James, Sanders took back the assignment. The result? James picked up his dribble halfway to the hoop. After a pair of failed pump fakes didn’t result in enough space to get a shot off, LeBron pass the ball back out.
Sanders tried guarding him for a third possession, but a pick forced a switch with Mbah a Moute.
The experiment ended when Sanders picked up two quick fouls on the same trip down the floor. The first one was something of a soft call. Sanders reached in, didn’t gain any advantage, and shouldn’t have reached in the first place. The Heat went right back to it, and LeBron drew another foul on a rip-through move.
In total, Sanders looked like he could handle the assignment of guarding James, a task that fell to Daniels and Mbah a Moute for most of the night. NBA junkies would surely appreciate a rematch in a few weeks, but sticking Sanders on James would only be a decision of consequence if the Bucks can keep the (likely) upcoming playoff games close enough for it to matter.