Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton delivers heroics in Game 1 win over Heat

May 22, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)
May 22, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports) /

When it came time for the Milwaukee Bucks to put away the Miami Heat in Game 1 of their first round series Saturday afternoon, Khris Middleton was there to put the stamp on it.

Of course, it took 16 lead changes, 17 times where it was tied and an overtime period for the Bucks to pull out an incredibly gutsy 109-107 victory over the Heat at Fiserv Forum. That all came in spite of what was a porous shooting display as they went 5-for-31 from downtown (16.1 percent) on the day, which is unsurprisingly the fewest made threes and lowest 3-point percentage the Bucks have sported all season long.

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Despite those trying circumstances, it didn’t deter Middleton from powering through and leading the Bucks to victory yesterday afternoon. Middleton’s 27 points led all scorers and he did so on 10-for-22 shooting (3-for-9 from long distance), along with six boards and six assists across 44-and-a-half minutes.

Middleton stood as a consistent source for a Bucks offense that went through congested stretches, especially early on in the game. Beyond supplying three of the Bucks’ five makes from deep, Middleton’s ability to splash in shots off the dribble was incredibly crucial as the Bucks exploited advantageous matchups within the Heat’s defense.

And as it turned out, Middleton’s best example of his shotmaking yesterday afternoon came on the second-to-last possession where he drained a 19-footer over Heat wing Duncan Robinson in overtime.

Khris Middleton powered the Milwaukee Bucks in their Game 1 win over the Heat

As that shot will be etched in the memory of all Bucks fans they hope it propels them to a deep playoff run, it’s only what everyone has come to expect from Middleton throughout his time in Milwaukee. After all, we only saw a more extreme version of Middleton’s shooting exploits catapult the Bucks in their only victory against the Heat during last year’s Conference Semifinals.

Yet this season has been far from a seamless display for Middleton in clutch time spots.

Per, Middleton led the Bucks with 61 total clutch points during the regular season, though did so on 17-of-44 shooting from the field (38.6 percent) and 7-for-23 from downtown (30.4 percent). That comes despite having the highest usage percentage (31.4 percent) of all Bucks players in such spots.

Of course, that comes with the territory of being thrust into those positions and the Bucks have made a point of becoming more familiar with crunch time scenarios. And as he talked about after the victory, Middleton’s confidence in those spots has never wavered with all of the work he has put into developing his shot arsenal:

"“It’s a huge confidence boost, for sure. But it comes with plenty of time and work and the team having plenty of confidence in you to have the ball and to take a shot like that.”"

Where the series goes from here and for the Bucks and the two-time All-Star remains to be seen, but his defensive role will be hugely important as well. Middleton was tasked with cashing around the Heat’s biggest shooting threat, Duncan Robinson, for much of Game 1. Robinson scord 21 points and shot 6-for-9 from three as he shook loose from Middleton repeatedly en route to 24 points on the day.

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Plenty of tests await the Bucks as their rematch with the Heat continues Monday night in Game 2 and time will tell whether Middleton will stay rising up for big moments like he did in Game 1.