Antetokounmpo, Bucks halt Heat winning streak
MILWAUKEE — So this is the reward if the Miami Heat secure the No. 8 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference?
Spring in Milwaukee doesn’t have quite the appeal it used to have.
Unless, of course, you’re the hometown Bucks, entering the playoffs with Giannis Antetokounmpo on your side.
Firming up their league-best record, the Bucks cruised past the Heat for the second time in as many meetings this season at Fiserv Forum, this time by a 116-87 count Friday night, after a 38-point rout in the Heat’s previous visit.
“Obviously it would have required one of our better games,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “and it was probably one of our poor games that we’ve had in a while.”
With Antetokounmpo handling the heavy lifting early and the Bucks outscoring the Heat, 31-18, in the third quarter, the Heat needed a leading man of their own to step forward. On this night, there wasn’t one.
Instead, with Antetokounmpo closing with 28 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, the Heat fell to 2-1 on this four-game trip that concludes Saturday night against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena. Antetokounmpo was supported by the 18 points, 10 assists and two rebounds of Bucks forward Khris Middleton.
“They do a great job defensively,” Spoelstra said. “We’re an attacking, paint team and they shut that basically completely off. And you have to credit their commitment to take away the paint.
“Even when we did have some good plays to spray to open shooters, they were few and far between.”
Going in, Spoelstra said, “These are playoff games for us and we are treating them accordingly. This is how you would play playoff games.”
For the Heat’s sake, the hope had better be otherwise.
“We haven’t cracked the code,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “If we play them in the playoffs, hopefully we get it.
“We got to figure out a way to be better.”
Five degrees of Heat from Friday’s game:
1. The playoff race: With the Orlando Magic overcoming a
17-point deficit to defeat the visiting Memphis Grizzlies, 123-119, Friday night, after the Magic never led during regulation, the Heat’s lead for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race is down to a half game entering Saturday’s contests, with the Heat at 35-37 and the Magic at
The teams meet Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena, with the Magic leading the season series
2-1. In the interim, the Heat play Saturday in Washington, with the Magic hosting the Philadelphia
76ers on Monday night. “That’s what we talk about,” Spoelstra said of the playoff race, “that there’s great joy in these wins, and there’s some pain, because there’s significance to these games.”
2. Unstoppable force: Antetokounmpo opened 5 for 5 and kept going from there, with 11 points in the first quarter and 20 by the half.
After trapping with some success against Kemba Walker, Paul George and DeMar DeRozan the previous three games, all victories, the Heat this time couldn’t conjure anything that Antetokounmpo couldn’t solve.
“They have so much spacing, so much shooting that it makes it tough,” Spoelstra said, “and they have it in all the spots that make it tough to go get him.”
Antetokounmpo was back after missing the previous two games with ankle soreness.
“Obviously each year, his rise, it’s been special to see a young kid come in like that and just roll,” Wade said. “I don’t know, because I’m not around, but from what you see it just looks like he puts in so much work. He looks like some of these guys who just live at the gym. It doesn’t even look like he has a house or apartment, it looks like he lives in the gym, whether it’s in the weight room or whether it’s working on his game.
“It’s phenomenal to see a young guy like that just grow. He doesn’t look satisfied at all. Each year he looks hungrier. He’s put his team in a position to compete for a championship.”
3. Wade acknowledged: The Bucks again honored Wade in his return to his college town, offering a Marquette-themed video tribute during the game’s first timeout.
Unsure of whether it was his last NBA game Milwaukee, Wade spoke of the honor of playing beneath his retired college No. 3, which was moved from the nowdemolished Bradley Center to the Bucks’ new arena.
“I mean how many guys can walk into an NBA arena, having their retired jersey up in the rafters, right?” Wade said. “So it’s always special.”
Wade closed with 12 points and another blocked shot, exchanging jerseys afterward with both Antetokounmpo and Middleton.
4. Down two: The Heat remained without Justise Winslow and Rodney McGruder.
Winslow has been out a bruised right thigh sustained in the March
15 loss to the Bucks at American-Airlines Arena.
Derrick Jones Jr. again started in Winslow’s place, with Josh Richardson opening as a primary ballhandler.
McGruder has been out with a sore left knee, with James Johnson having moved into the rotation in his place.
5. Roadblock: Solid in his play in reserve the previous three games during the winning streak the Heat carried into the night, Goran Dragic this time was 0 for 9 from the field, although he did close with five rebounds and four assists.
Heat center Bam Adebayo (top) tries to fend off Bucks center Brook Lopez as they scramble for the ball Friday night in Milwaukee.