The Milwaukee Bucks are officially set to square off against the Miami Heat in the first round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
This will be the third meeting between the Bucks and Heat in the last four postseasons, with the two sides each taking a victory. While the top-seeded Bucks will be favored in this rubber match, the Heat are still undeniably a good team who have given the Bucks trouble in the past. With that said, let us look at three X-factors for the Bucks in round one who could help them take down the Heat due to what they bring to the table.
1 – Jae Crowder
The Bucks traded for Jae Crowder because they hoped he could be a difference-maker during the postseason. They will get to see what Crowder can do on the big stage against his old team right away. While it would be surprising to see Crowder be promoted into the starting lineup like many thought he would, he will still play a prominent role in this series off the bench, in all likelihood.
Slowing down big wings like Jimmy Butler is the primary reason the Bucks traded for Crowder in the first place. His use of physicality and toughness when defending top-tier scorers is among his strongest attributes, and it will be put to the test in this series. If Crowder can defend Butler well, it would free up players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday to focus more on offense rather than having to carry the load on both ends, which would obviously be huge for the Bucks.
Crowder’s switchability on the defensive end will be big in this series, as it will have him on the floor in key moments. He will likely draw the duty of guarding Butler primarily, but knowing he can also stick with key players like Tyler Herro, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, and more is good to know. While he looked a bit off at times during the regular season, which was somewhat expected after sitting out several months while also battling a calf injury, he certainly has it in him to turn up the intensity on that end.
Crowder was motivated earlier this season to take down his former team, the Phoenix Suns, in a regular season meeting, so he should get up for the chance to take down another former team of his in the playoffs.