It took a while, but eventually, the Miami Heat were the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks were the Milwaukee Bucks. That much was reflected in the shooting percentages, and the final score, and the fast break points and the final stats at the rim.
It was a bizarre twist on how the game ended up looking like most thought it would though.
Milwaukee led 68-67 with 1:21 remaining in the third quarter when Coach Scott Skiles stepped on to the court, apparently to argue a shot clock violation he thought existed but was not called. Carlos Arroyo happened to be moving to the same spot Skiles was standing and the two collided. A technical foul was called and instead of the Heat missing a shot and the Bucks rebounding with a one-point lead, the Heat suddenly made a free throw, reloaded and made a three.
The Heat led 71-68 and wouldn’t trail again, going on a 32-13 run before the score evened out a bit in garbage time.
Skiles gaffe obviously isn’t solely to blame for the Heat winning or going on a monster run — they are the Miami Heat after all — but it did illustrate how a team must be virtually perfect against such a talented squad if they hope to stay in the game for four quarters. The smallest of errors can ignite such a powerful team.
Prior to the 3-point shot James Jones made in the corner after that technical foul, the Heat hadn’t made one all game. After that three, they made three more. Even the best teams sometimes just need to see a ball go through the hoop before the flood gates open. And when those gates open for a team like the Heat, they are virtually impossible to close.
During the broadcast, Bucks announcer Jim Paschke noted that Milwaukee’s coaches had them working on finishing at the rim prior to Tuesday’s game. That made sense, since heading into the game the Bucks were the worst team in the league at converting on attempts at the rim. Despite the practice, they remain a work in progress. Milwaukee got to the rim more often than opponents typically do against the Heat, but still had trouble finishing. Milwaukee shot just 10-21 at the rim, despite a number of open looks. Their night could have easily been summed up by one Chris Douglas-Roberts drive late.
After initially failing to get much traction heading towards the paint, CD-R made a gorgeous change of direction move and found himself wide open for a reverse lay in. But he left it short and saw the Heat grab the rebound. Such was the evening.
- Milwaukee again failed to shoot 40%, though they did spend the majority of the first three quarters over the number. Milwaukee made just seven of 20 fourth quarter shots, sealing the deal for the Heat and keeping the Bucks sub-40% in a loss once again.
- Despite a number of crafty drives that left him in good position, John Salmons finished just six of 18 from the field and three of seven at the rim. He got past the very difficult perimeter defense of the Heat on a number of occasions and had to contort and twist as he got into the paint and to the rim, causing his poor finishing percentage. Overall though, his effort was terrific on both ends of the floor and he continued to shoot well from deep (2-4 3FG).
A key part of Milwaukee’s ability to hold off the Heat for the better part of three quarters was how well they took care of the ball. Six of Milwaukee’s nine turnovers came in the second half and nine of the Heat’s 11 points off of them came with them. Once the Heat are able to force a turnover or two, they turn into some serious ball hawks. Dwyane Wade and Lebron James gambled more frequently in the second half and sometimes Milwaukee was able to make them pay, but more often than not they were able to cover each others mistakes and keep the pressure on Milwaukee.
- Twice in the second half Wade was able to draw fouls on Milwaukee defenders off pump fakes outside the 3-point line. Wade’s quickness and decisive fakes make it nearly impossible to avoid biting a little bit and he’s one of the league’s very finest players at making defenders pay for jumping on his fake.
- While Milwaukee struggled to finish all night, the Heat shot 13-22 at the rim, led by Wade’s six of nine effort.
- 35 of Miami’s 37 free throws were taken by James, Wade or Chris Bosh.
Effort wise, that was a very good game for Milwaukee. Shooting wise, it was a good three quarters. Milwaukee’s defense isn’t quite good enough to get by with an offense that plays three quarters against an elite team though. When Milwaukee is hitting shots and finishing, they look like they can play with anybody. But the trick for the better teams is that they execute how they want and finish for four quarters. Milwaukee isn’t quite there yet.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).