Defensive problems loom large as Heat dominate the Bucks in Game 3

Apr 22, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

Following a terrific bounce-back win over the Miami Heat in Game 2, the Mr. Hyde aspect of the Milwaukee Bucks was in full force in Game 3.

The Bucks were blown off the floor after the Heat came out with more physicality, toughness, and intensity from the opening tip. Milwaukee quickly found itself down double digits, and whenever a run was attempted by the Bucks, Miami punched back. They ultimately won 121-99 to take a 2-1 lead in this best of seven first round series. Many will point to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s absence as a major reason for this debacle, and rightfully so, but this team has other major issues looming.

Defensive problems loom large as Heat dominate the Bucks in Game 3

Defensively, the Bucks have been awful to start this series. Per, the Heat were the worst-scoring team in the regular season, having averaged just 109.5 points per game. During the first three games of the series, the Bucks have given up 130, 122, and 121. That is with the Heat having to play without Tyler Herro, their third-leading scorer, for most of the series. Credit to the Heat for making shots, but that simply is not good a good enough effort defensively for the Bucks.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before; the Bucks have been getting scorched on the perimeter in this series. Miami has shot a blistering 50 percent from distance, the best by any playoff team, in the three games thus far. Yet, the Bucks continue to dare them to shoot it, go under screens, and give little effort to contesting the shots. Many have said this type of shooting is not sustainable, but it certainly hasn’t looked that way through these three games.

Sure, missing one of the league’s most versatile defenders in Antetokounmpo hurts, but it’s not as if this team isn’t constructed with strong defensive personnel everywhere. After all, they do have a Defensive Player of the Year runner-up in Brook Lopez and arguably the best guard defender in the entire league in Jrue Holiday.

The Bucks need to make some adjustments leading up to Game 4, most notably regarding their approach on the 3-point line. It’s time to tighten up and force them into tight shots rather than outright daring them to hit open threes, as they’ve shown they certainly can. It would also be a treat to see them come out with some intensity and physicality, which were two aspects that helped them take Game 2 but vanished in Game 3. Bobby Portis must be a catalyst for that.

Only time will tell if Antetokounmpo returns for Game 4, but either way, this team is facing a dire situation after falling behind 2-1.

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The Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat will play a crucial Game 4 on Monday.