What to Watch For: Bucks
They won’t have an opportunity to extend a winning streak this time, but the Bucks will have their best chance to defeat Miami since… well, before the 2013 playoffs at least. The team’s 3rd-ranked defense (96.3 points per game) has been offset pretty severely by its 28th-ranked offense (91.9 points per game) and now faces a still dangerous Heat team led by a resurgent Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, who appear to have emerged from underneath LeBron James’ sizeable shadow to remind us that they’re still pretty good players themselves.
If they’re going to be competitive (and be watchable) this year, the Bucks will need to identify sources of scoring besides Brandon Knight and the exciting emergence of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Knight (18.1) is the only Buck averaging more than 12 points per game and Antetokounmpo is second on the team with 11.8. While I’m not going to sit here and say that I knew O.J. Mayo‘s hot shooting to start the season was unsustainable, watching him hoist jumper after jumper in an attempt to find a rhythm again doesn’t appear to be the answer. Jabari Parker has shown some flashes but also experienced some expected rookie struggles. Even Khris Middleton, last season’s most pleasant surprise, hasn’t yet found his range and is sidelined by knee issues.
The Heat aren’t a dominating defensive team by anyone’s estimation, so tonight would be a good night to find that other source of offense.
What to Watch For: Heat
Chris Bosh is putting up Raptor-esque statistics again (21 points, 9 rebounds per game) and showing that he can still lead a team. He’ll be a challenge for Larry Sanders as he spends more time outside the paint shooting jumpers than the typical center. While Sanders’ mobility should help mitigate Bosh’s range, it also means that he’ll be drawn away from the rim more often, potentially limiting his defensive impact and affecting his shot blocking abilities. The Bucks will need to remain especially aware on defense without the safety of Sanders’ long reach hanging out near the basket to clean up his teammates’ miscues.
The Bucks’ other challenge will be in remaining vigilant against the Heat’s three-point shooting prowess, led by the unlikely duo of Wade (45%) and former Pacers/Mavericks/Knicks/Nets/Lakers castoff Shawne Williams, who’s shooting an incredible 52% on almost 5 three-point attempts per game. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t heard Williams’ name in years, and he’s definitely not the guy I thought I’d be writing about as an offensive threat for a competitive NBA team. But hey, here we are. It’s a learning experience for all of us.
Time – 6:00 p.m. CST TV – FS-Wisconsin Radio – 620 WTMJ
Bucks: Khris Middleton (Day-to-Day)
Heat: Dwyane Wade (Day-to-Day); Danny Granger (Day-to-Day); Devyn Marble (Out)
Bucks: Brandon Knight – Jared Dudley –Jabari Parker – Ersan Ilysasova – Larry Sanders
Heat: Norris Cole – Dwyane Wade – Luol Deng – some dude named Shawne Williams – Chris Bosh
Choose the Form of the Destroyer: The withered husk of Dwyane Wade
While 11 NBA seasons and a variety of lower body maladies have cut into his athleticism and abilities, Wade – the pride of Marquette University – has put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career. As his at-the-rim wizardry has fallen off, Wade has rebuilt his game around better perimeter shooting, distribution, and a variety of wily veteran tactics. He’s still scoring nearly 20 points per game and will represent a pretty stiff challenge for Jared Dudley, O.J. Mayo, or any other Buck tasked with defending him if he plays tonight.