The Milwaukee Bucks are hustling this series. Give them credit, they are giving a real playoff effort.
Their problem is the Miami Heat are far more talented and when they give their best effort Miami runs away and hides.
The Bucks effort meant Game 2 was a three-point game after three quarters, but the Heat opened the fourth quarter on a 12-0 run and that was all she wrote. Miami went on to win 98-86 to take a 2-0 series lead as things head back to Milwaukee for Game 3.
The Bucks can steal a game in this series at home if they can get all of the parts of their game clicking on the same night. That just didn’t happen often in the regular season and it feels a longshot in this series.
The Bucks did a lot of things they wanted to do in this one right from the start. They got points from guys on the frontline — Ersan Ilyasova had 12 points, they shot a 55.6 percent, they forced six turnovers. It was a good first quarter for them. And it was still 25-23 Miami.
But the Bucks didn’t have balance. Miami had made it’s focus taking the ball out of the hands of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings and it worked — the pair had one point on five shots in the first half. The pair came out more aggressive in the second half but it didn’t help much — Jennings finished with 8 points on 3-of-15 shooting, Ellis had 7 points on 2-of-7 from the floor.
Ilyasova picked up the slack with 21 for the game, and Mike Dunleavy added 16.
The first three quarters of the game continued like the first. The Heat didn’t seem to have their full focus nor execution — Erik Spoelstra will have plenty of things to go over on tape — and the Bucks energy kept them close.
But you knew the Heat would have one big run.
It came at the start of the fourth and it was a 12-0 run — fueled by stops and turnovers leading to hustle points. When Norris Cole hit a three and the Bucks called a timeout it was too late, the score was 80-65 and you knew how it would end from there.
Miami got 21 points from Dwyane Wade, who really seemed to direct the Heat attack for the night, plus 19 from LeBron James. But as a team the Heat hit just 13-of-42 (31% from three) and guys like Chris Bosh (10 points) faded into the background.
Miami is going to have to shoot better from deep and play more consistent defense to get wins in Milwaukee, because you know the Bucks are going to play better at home. More of their game will come together.
But when the Heat are focused and bring their full effort, this series isn’t much of a contest.