For the second year in a row, the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat will square off in a playoff series. Once again, it is the Heat who are trying to upset the Bucks. Last year, the Heat shocked the NBA world with their 4-1 series win over the top seed Bucks. Now, Jimmy Butler and company look to bring their balanced playstyle back to the forefront for another upset.
However, the Bucks are not just going to roll over once again. This is arguably the most important playoffs this organization has had in the Giannis Antetokounmpo era. A team that has only made it as far as the Eastern Conference finals once, in the last four seasons, this postseason is essential towards the future of the franchise. With one team known to make some runs in the playoffs and the other looking to get over the postseason hump, this is sure to be an intriguing series to tune in to.
Series – Miami Heat: +255
Series – Milwaukee Bucks: -330
The odds for this series aren’t necessarily a “stay away” but there is a bit of a gray area. It really would not be too wise to bet the Bucks here. They’ve been traditionally inconsistent in the postseason and the risk/reward is just not good enough. When betting the Heat, however, things get interesting. There’s some pretty nice value for betting the Heat here but they’re the team that has the inferior talent on paper.
Looking at the past, this is also a really hard bet. Keep in mind, the Bucks have the talent but traditionally, it’s not the best. For the Heat, it may not be the best option to doubt them once again. They’re a team with a phenomenal system and one that fits the playoffs perfectly. They can match up one through five and are really the definition of team basketball. Overall, betting on this series seems to be Heat or no bet at all.
Bam Adebayo vs Giannis Antetokounmpo
This was the key matchup of last year’s series and it is once again this year. This matchup really focuses on the defensive side of the ball for the Heat. Teams and coaches have been trying to figure out how to guard Antetokounmpo forever and Erik Spoelstra’s Heat has done one of the best jobs. By placing Adebayo on Antetokounmpo, the Heat was able to slow him down tremendously in last year’s series. Now, there’s almost no doubt that Miami will turn to Adebayo again to try and lock down Antetokounmpo. If he can do this to at least some success, the series will get a lot harder on the Bucks.
The Heat once again is focusing on defense here with this matchup. Middleton is probably the best player in Antetokounmpo’s supporting cast and he got shut down for pretty much all of last year’s series. Butler excelled on the defensive end against the Bucks last year and he’s looking to clamp down Middleton yet again. In 28 meetings between the two players, Butler’s team has gone 20-8 against Middleton’s and Butler has been the primary defender on Middleton. If the Bucks are going to win this series Middleton has to figure out a way to beat Butler. Last year, it was basically just the all-Antetokounmpo show for the Bucks and we know how that turned out.
Heat Guards vs Jrue Holiday
Milwaukee’s big addition this offseason was Holiday. Now, he’ll need to have a big series against Miami’s rotation of guards to stifle the Heat offense. Miami plays through three guards that all start on any given night. Tyler Herro, Goran Dragic, and Kendrick Nunn are this trio and it can be a deadly one. All three score in different ways and can put up points in a hurry. Last year, the Bucks struggled especially with Dragic, as he had the performance of his career in the 2020 playoffs. With Holiday, they’ll look to use his defensive capabilities to shut down all three of these guards, while putting up his average of 17 points a game.
Miami Heat X-Factor: Duncan Robinson
The Heat’s X-factor all season has been Robinson. If he can score at a high volume, they almost always win the game. However, if he can be a little inconsistent in between his big games. Robinson will also need to step up on defense if he wants to continue logging big minutes in the playoffs. He got exploited in last year’s playoffs by pretty much every team he went up against because of his defensive abilities, or lack thereof. If Robinson can at least defend at an average level, and sink four to five three-pointers a game, the Heat can be set up for some major success in this series.
Milwaukee Bucks X-Factor: Mike Budenholzer
It may be a little strange for a coach to be the X-factor of a series but Budenholzer certainly is here. It’s hard to believe that if the Bucks lose this series, then Budenholzer won’t be fired. After last year’s loss, it was pretty clear that he got out-coached by Spoelstra. Budenholzer will need to step it up this year. He’ll look to improve in some areas like beating Butler by getting Middleton open looks as well as not forcing all the pressure on Antetokounmpo. If he can make some of these key adjustments throughout the series, the Bucks should win this one and Budenholzer will save his job.
Prediction: Milwaukee Bucks 4, Miami Heat 3
The main thought here is that this is not the bubble anymore, and the Heat aren’t the hottest team in basketball like they were in 2020. This has to be the year for the Bucks and everyone in the organization knows it. Overall, Milwaukee just has too much talent for the Heat to handle and this will be the year that Antetokounmpo wins a big series.
Follow Charlie Parent on Twitter @Charlie_Parent
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