It’s official: Heat vs. Bucks in the #1/#8 Eastern Conference First Round best-of-seven series.
By losing to the Charlotte Bobcats, the Bucks sealed their playoff fate, hopefully not in more ways than one. The Bucks, though, may have done some things right in their 95-85 loss.
It still has to be disconcerting that J.J. Redick can’t connect on three-pointers (2-for-11) with any regularity, and that Milwaukee got pounded on the glass (52-36) by worst defensive rebounding team in the lead. Worse, it’s hard to conceive of a team on a long losing streak winning four out of seven games with Miami. But there were some meek bright spots.
The Bucks played with just three guards and still found some time to rest Monta Ellis. He only played 31 minutes. Ish Smith took over his leftover minutes in the rotation and received a valuable dose of game action. He played reasonably well: nine points, seven assists, four rebounds, and two steals. He also gives the Bucks an extra dimension in terms of pressuring the ball handler on defense. His six turnovers didn’t help the cause though.
Brandon Jennings, Larry Sanders, and Marquis Daniels missed the game with injuries, though Daniels dressed as a precaution.
John Henson started in place of Sanders and he too garnered valuable experience minutes. Even more than Smith, Henson may be needed in the playoffs. His length is one of the few aspects of the Bucks roster that the talented Heat may not be able to counter. If Sanders gets into foul trouble — and this is a real possibility because 1) he be playing amped up defense in the playoffs and 2) the Heat are going to get their ‘fair’ share of whistles — then Henson will be needed. He grabbed 11 rebounds in the game, but there were moments when the Bobcats dominated the glass (see for example, the third quarter) and Henson couldn’t do much to help his team stem the tide.
This game was the fourth road game in five nights for the Bucks. They had virtually nothing to play for, save for the shame of losing to the worst team in the league. They were missing three starters, and Boylan wisely sat the other two in the fourth quarter. On paper, it looks awful. But now it’s time for the Bucks to regroup, put their core back together, and attack the last two regular season games as a playoff tuneup.
With a series against the defending champs at hand, and a four-game losing streak in tow, they will need it.