Milwaukee Bucks: 3 things to build on from Game 1 win over Heat

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MAY 22 (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MAY 22 (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /
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May 22, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)
May 22, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports) /

The highly anticipated first-round matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat lived up to its hype.

After a sluggish 48 minutes and 5 minutes of overtime on top of that, the Bucks were able to pull out 109-107 overtime victory in Game 1, all thanks to Khris Middleton‘s Kobe-esque fadeaway over Duncan Robinson. This close victory could be a momentum builder for the Bucks as they prepare for a deep postseason run and after adding crucial additions to their rotation and roster.

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In order to redeem themselves after last year’s defeat, Milwaukee might look to learn from their past mistakes and look to capitalize on what works this time around. Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer got a lot of heat for the huge upset last season because of his lack of adjustments as the series progressed.

This time around though, this team is much different with different players as well as strategies. So, now let’s look at what worked for the Milwaukee Bucks in their 109-107 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 1 that they look to continue for the rest of the series.

The Milwaukee Bucks’ defensive assignments have changed for the better

One of Coach Bud’s major criticisms was his defensive assignments. Giannis Antetokounmpo was flourishing as a help defender with Brook Lopez in drop coverage and it’s played a huge part in why he still stands as the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

However, we didn’t see Antetokounmpo match up all that much against the Heat’s leading scorer, Jimmy Butler, during last year’s Conference Semifinals series with the Heat. Per, Antetokounmpo guarded Butler for 9.9 partial possessions during last year’s series and Butler scored eight points on 2-for-6 shooting (0-for-1 from three, 4-for-4 from the foul line).

This time around, though, the Bucks had a clear mission to slow down Butler and let the other players create shots, especially without Wesley Matthews in the fold. Following this, Jimmy Butler was Giannis’ primary defensive assignment. Guarding him across 31.8 partial possessions, Antetokounmpo was able to bother Butler with his length and restrict him to 2-for-6 shooting from the field.

While Antetokounmpo may have let Butler blow by him to force overtime, the two-time MVP absolutely hounded Butler here late at the end of regulation.

Bucks defensive ace P.J. Tucker got plenty of chances to defend Jimmy Butler too. Tucker played suffocating defense and held Butler to two points on 0-for-6 shooting across 9.3 partial possessions.

While Butler struggled as the Bucks threw some of their best defenders towards his way throughout the day, the same can be said how they smothered Heat center Bam Adebayo.

That distinction was given to Brook Lopez, who regularly dared Adebayo to take midrange pull-ups or one-handed floater attempts rather than beating him off the dribble and blow-by for an easy layup. It left Adebayo going 3-for-8 on jump shots (37.5 percent) for the day too.