The Milwaukee Bucks entered Tuesday's clash with the Miami Heat boasting a perfect 3-0 record in the NBA's new In-Season Tournament.
They had a chance to make it 4-0 against this Miami team, but it wouldn't be easy. Despite the Heat being down several key players, including Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, this game was a duel from start to finish, which typically is the case whenever Milwaukee faces Miami. The Bucks ultimately got a close win with a score of 131-124, which had some big implications for the In-Season Tournament.
How the Bucks' win over the Heat impacts NBA In-Season Tournament
With the victory, the New York Knicks will officially visit the Bucks in the East Quarterfinals while the Boston Celtics will visit the Indiana Pacers as the In-Season Tournament hype grows. These will be a pair of good matchups, and it'll be interesting to see if the 4-0 Bucks can keep things going.
To get this win against the Heat, the Bucks had to rely on their clutch heroics, something they have done time and time again early on this NBA season.
Damian Lillard, who has been arguably the league's most clutch player so far, had another terrific outing, having scored 13 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter. The guard made two massive triples with less than five minutes to play that helped the Bucks get this win. He finished just shy of getting a double-double by also tallying nine assists, having gotten his teammates involved.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had himself a tremendous matchup, stuffing the stat sheet with 33 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and a blocked shot. The Greek Freak, who had been hit or miss at the line this season, had a solid game by his standards, sinking 10-of-13 tries. He sunk all four of his free throws in the fourth and had a dunk to stamp a Milwaukee win.
Plenty of Bucks fans were surprised to see Khris Middleton back on the floor after it came out that he was dealing with Achilles soreness, having missed the last game. Yet, he reclaimed his starting spot and had one of his best games yet this season, finishing with 17 points and eight rebounds in just a tick under 23 and a half minutes. It was great to see Middleton get into a groove and stay there.
In the final period, Brook Lopez had only one bucket, but it was one of the most important makes of the night, as he threw down a vicious dunk with less than 40 seconds to put Milwaukee up by five. He finished the night with 12 points on 50 percent shooting to go with four rebounds, four assists, and a single blocked shot.
To round out the starting five, Malik Beasley had an interesting stat line with 16 points and 10 boards to go along with an assist, a steal, and a block. The guard did a little bit of everything, but what stood out the most was his rebounding, as he was constantly hunting down boards. If he can knock down shots while also doing all of the little things, his importance will continue to grow.
Outside of the starters, the Bucks didn't get too much help elsewhere. Pat Connaughton had seven points before exiting with an injury, Bobby Portis had a tough night with six points on 3-of-8 shooting, MarJon Beauchamp couldn't stop fouling and missed both of his shots, and Cameron Payne couldn't get it going. Andre Jackson Jr. was a bright spot, hitting both of his 3-point tries in limited minutes.
On Miami's end, several players stepped up, with Bam Adebayo scoring 31, Kyle Lowry getting 21, Josh Richardson totaling 20, and Jamie Jaquez Jr. and Caleb Martin each getting 14. For much of this game, it felt like the Heat could not miss from the floor as they hit tough shot after tough shot. Thankfully, the Bucks got just enough stops in the end.
In the end, it was a nice win, and it was great to see the Bucks continue their excellence in the clutch while improving to 4-0 in tournament play.
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