Game in Review: Milwaukee Bucks @ Miami Heat – January 19

Jan 19, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) dribbles the ball against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 19, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) dribbles the ball against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports /

The Milwaukee Bucks continue to gain ground in the Eastern Conference standings with a convincing win in Florida against the Miami Heat.

Starting Lineups – Milwaukee Bucks: Michael Carter-Williams, Khris MiddletonGiannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe

Miami Heat: Tyler Johnson, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside

Over the past week-and-some-change or so, something amazing has seemingly happened for the Milwaukee Bucks: They’ve been playing competent NBA-level basketball against quality opponents. What once looked like a sinking ship of a roster now looks like a much more organized team perhaps dreaming about a surge up the standings in the second-half of the season.

Reaching that pinnacle, however, will take a bit more than close wins, but the Bucks have stabilized their tendency to show different personalities each night and may be able to cement their place as another threat in the East if they can topple the Miami Heat on the road.

The biggest fear for Milwaukee had to be the imposing presence of Hassan Whiteside inside with his ability to block and rebound without restraint. His athleticism is something of a sight to see, so keeping him grounded would be critical.

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Milwaukee didn’t appear afraid of the highly touted Heat, however, and came out swinging right away with Middleton threes and Giannis euro-step dunks in transition early. Very early foul trouble for Tyler Johnson, who was standing in for an injured Goran Dragic, forced the Heat to go even deeper on the bench to Josh Richardson (in general, the backcourt problems for Miami would benefit Milwaukee most of the night).

The Heat ran right back into things, however, with an eight to two run cued by poor offense by Milwaukee inside. High pick-and-roll play by Whiteside and Wade kept the Bucks off-kilt, and as shots became more difficult to earn, Milwaukee nearly fumbled their lead late, but end the first up 19-18.

Amar’e Stoudemire of all people got things going early in the second for Miami with some crafty work on Greg Monroe to grab a 22-21 lead for Milwaukee.  Jerryd Bayless answered right back, luckily, with a three. While Milwaukee continued to have a tough time holding onto the ball, especially with Monroe struggling to keep grasp when fed inside the paint, the Heat took advantage with easy baskets on the break.

Giannis appeared to show no fear as he worked to get the offense going again with an impressive poster dunk over Hassan Whiteside with 4:44 left in the half:

Khris Middleton decided to join in the festivities ending the half with 13 points, three rebounds and two assists as Milwaukee finally started to click once more on O. Strong performances from the starters really helped maintain the Bucks lead at the half at 49-39.

Uncharacteristically for Milwaukee, the three ball was falling with ease for them in the first 24 minutes as they went four of seven from deep on the backs of Middleton and Bayless.

What was characteristic for Milwaukee was a weak showing from the break mostly in thanks to some unforced turnovers and fouls to allow the Heat back into things. Jabari and Giannis got things moving from left to right with a two-man game which helpfully opened the lane nicely for teammates to attack.

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The turnover bug then got into Miami about midway through the third when they had 12 TOs to their name. Milwaukee’s starting unit continued to pour it on in every fashion possible offensively eventually pulling ahead to a 14 point lead. More discombobulated play by the Heat and fantastic play-making and facilitating by Middleton pushed Milwaukee to a 69-47 lead with 4:30 remaining.

Overall, Milwaukee just looked like a very confident, very in control team all night long. Many of the problems that plagued them earlier in the year (poor D, rough shooting, etc.) looked to have at least lessened in impact, and the Bucks look that much more competitive for it.

Oh, and Jabari is doing this again with regularity:

Milwaukee went into the fourth, then, up 75-57.

While Whiteside and Chris Bosh were doing a solid enough job offensively, the other members of the Heat were having a tough time doing much of anything to help out. Milwaukee’s length went a long way to forcing Miami to simply shoot, and shoot they did, and miss they did as well. The Hassan/Chris duo would end the game going 15-24 while the “others” went 12-50.

Milwaukee’s lead was generally insurmountable, and the lack of Dwyane Wade & Bosh minutes late was a virtual white flag for Miami, though Milwaukee’s starters still got plenty of burn late. Middleton continued his nearly unstoppable run hitting from virtually everywhere no matter the number of defenders right on top of him. He would finish with 22 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, a line deserving of this Vine:

A small little surge late by the Heat with Milwaukee’s subs in made things slightly interesting, but what looked like a solid win for most of the way ended up as such with the Bucks taking the W.

89. Final. 79. 110. 91

Milwaukee will look to keep on keeping on while climbing further within striking distance of the playoffs on Friday in Houston against the born-again Rockets.