The Milwaukee Bucks (30-12) have lost to the Miami Heat (21-20) six games in a row — the time accumulates to two years and two days the last time it was a Milwaukee victory.
The Bucks will get their opportunity to end that streak tonight, and the odds are looking good.
Last week, Milwaukee finished its best first half of a season in 28 years, and now they enter the game against Miami sitting with 30 wins and in the No. 2 position in the Eastern Conference. And that’s not all: The Bucks lead the league in point differential.
And the news doesn’t get any better for Miami: At home this season, Milwaukee has been nearly unbeatable tallying a 19-4 record. Meanwhile, the Heat are 10-8 on the road — a winning record, yes, but not enough to feel confident against the Bucks at Fiserv Forum.
Matters get worse for Miami when you look at the injury report as well. They’re currently without their All-Star point guard Goran Dragic due to knee surgery, and their big-man Hassan Whiteside was out their last game due to an illness — he’s currently listed questionable against Milwaukee, though was a full participant in practice on Monday.
For the Bucks, it’s more bright spots: The only injury on the report for them is Villanova national champion and rookie guard Donte DiVincenzo, and he’s listed as probable — DiVincenzo missed Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks due to an ankle injury.
Milwaukee was dealing with a injury recently with superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (left-hip contusion and right-quadriceps soreness), but he recovered quite well the next game against Atlanta — he racked up 33 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals in 31 minutes.
Going back to Miami, it’s not all bad for them. They’ll be the more rested team tonight, with their last game being on Saturday in a 112-108 win against the Memphis Grizzlies. Another bright spot for the Heat is the new forward-turned-point guard Justise Winslow. He was absolutely magnificent against the Grizz putting up 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Another bright area for Miami is Bam Adebayo. Replacing Hassan Whiteside on Saturday, he achieved a double-double tallying 11 points and 10 rebounds against Memphis. The Heat’s Josh Richardson also continues to impress, he nearly had a double-double himself posting 14 points and nine assists — a career-high.
An interesting factor going into tonight will be if Miami can continue to shut down Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo — he was held to just nine points back on the December 22nd 87-94 loss against the Heat. Antetokounmpo is currently a candidate for the MVP averaging 26.7 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 5.9 APG — he’s also shooting a steaming 64.5 FG% on two-pointers. Antetokoumpo is also having this massive production in less minutes as well — his 33.5 per game average is three minutes less than his average was last year.
Antetokounmpo has also been a monster on the defensive end this season for the Bucks. The 10.2 defensive rebounds-per-game he averages will be a career high if he continues at this pace. To go along with that statistic, he’s also averaging 1.5 blocks-per-game and holding opposing shooters to just 40.8 FG%. Just incredible numbers from the ‘Greek Freak’.
On top of that, Milwaukee has also surrounded their star with a load of talent including Khris Middleton (17.8 PPG), Malcolm Brogdon (15.6 PPG) and Eric Bledsoe (15.3 PPG).
Needless to say, Miami has their work cut out for them tonight to keep their streak alive.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
CHECK THE NUMBERS
The Miami Heat have the disadvantage in the stats in comparison to Milwaukee, but they do have a nice edge on the defensive side. In offensive production, they have a drastic -11 difference sitting at 106.7 PPG — the shooting also hasn’t been the best at 44.0 FG%, a -3 disadvantage. In the rebounding game, Miami is -2 there with a 47.1 RPG number. The Heat do come in with an advantage though, and that’s a +3 advantage on defense with a 105.6 PA average.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks have most of the statistical edge, and that’s starting out with a blazing +11 edge on offense with an impressive 117.6 PPG — they’re nearly +4 sitting at 47.9 FG%. They also sit with a +2 advantage on the glass, they almost compile 50 rebounds-per-game at 49.0 RPG. Milwaukee does have the -3 disadvantage in ball protection sitting at 108.3 PA, but you have to think their offensive production counters that.
Other than a blowout loss to the Atlanta Hawks on the road, the Miami Heat have been feisty as of late. With the numbers not being that far apart, you can expect them to bring that aggression along and test the Milwaukee Bucks tonight.
Especially considering the Heat have ‘shutting down Giannis Antetokounmpo’ listed on their resume already. Remember: Antetokounmpo was held to just nine points back in December against Miami. If they can do that again, a win on the road is very much a reality. If not, a win may be near impossible — the Heat only scored 94 points in that game.
As dominant as Antetokounmpo has been recently, I don’t see that happening again. I also see the ‘Greek Freak’ having no problem being productive in the paint against Whiteside with the roll he’s been on. Facing off against Antetokoumpo, being on the road and with the inconsistent shooting, I see Milwaukee getting the win, but the playoff-bound Heat will test them.