The Milwaukee Bucks made quick work of the Miami Heat on Monday night after a record-tying first quarter as Milwaukee knocked down 10 3-pointers in the opening frame, matching the NBA playoff record set by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. After 12 minutes of action at Fiserv Forum, the Bucks owned a 26-point lead and they never looked back as Milwaukee ultimately dominated Miami throughout the game to come away with a 132-98 victory.
In the end, Milwaukee knocked down 22 3-pointers as a team with Byrn Forbes leading the charge from beyond the arc with six made 3-pointers of his own. While Forbes led all bench scorers with 22 points, it was Giannis Antetokounmpo who paced the Bucks on the offensive end as he finished the win with 31 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. On the other end of the spectrum, the Heat struggled mightily from beyond the arc after setting a franchise playoff record for made 3-pointers in Game 1. That cold spell proved to be enough to decide this one as Miami was never really in it after the opening eight minutes of play.
With the win, Milwaukee takes a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven series. Things will shift to Miami for Game 3, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday night with TNT handling the broadcast. Here are the three most important takeaways from Milwaukee’s Game 2 victory.
1. Giannis taking control
One of the major controversies surrounding Milwaukee’s second-round loss to Miami last season was Mike Budenholzer’s decision not to unleash his Defensive Player of the Year on Heat star Jimmy Butler one-on-one. Butler torched the Bucks for 23.4 points per game in that series, including 40 in a close Game 1 win. Well, Butler has only 27 thus far in this series on a horrific 25 percent shooting, and he has Giannis to thank for that.
Butler scored only five total points when guarded by Antetokounmpo in Game 1. In Game 2, not one of his four field goals came with Giannis guarding him. In fact, Butler’s few successes offensively in Game 2 came when he managed to get Antetokounmpo switched off of him.
Imagine being so frustrated offensively that you seek out Jrue Holiday as a better option. That’s where Butler was in Game 2, and with good reason. This is what Giannis did to him on Monday.
The Bucks are switching so much more now that no single defender is ever responsible for what an opposing scorer does, but Antetokounmpo has exceeded all expectations against Butler so far, and that switching has protected him from chasing Butler over screens, an area in which he struggles. More than that, it’s a positive sign heading into Milwaukee’s far more difficult second-round series that would likely come against the Brooklyn Nets. Antetokounmpo is one of the few players on Earth with the length to defend Kevin Durant. If Budenholzer is willing to throw him on Butler, he’ll likely take the same approach against Brooklyn’s superstars.
2. The Heat need a Herro
Midway through the third quarter, the TNT broadcast mistakenly claimed that Tyler Herro had checked into the game for the first time. They were wrong but could be forgiven for the flub. Herro had only played nine minutes to that point. He ended up playing 18, mostly garbage-time minutes in the game as a whole. That’s down from the 19 he gave Miami in Game 1. He shot 2-of-10 in that loss and 1-of-5 in this one.
Herro looked like one of the best young players in the NBA last postseason. The Heat rewarded him with roughly 30 minutes per game of playing time this season. But his numbers mostly stagnated, and now, it’s fair to wonder where he even sits in the pecking order. Kendrick Nunn, who fell out of the playoff rotation for meaningful stretches last season, is starting over him now. Goran Dragic remains in place. The Heat traded for Victor Oladipo for a reason. The young star they’d hoped would grow into a core building block this season has struggled to even get onto the floor against the Bucks this time around. The Heat seem to have lost trust in Herro.
That’s a hugely important development beyond just this series. Nunn is a restricted free agent this offseason, and the Heat are expected to pursue Kyle Lowry in free agency. If they sign both, where does that leave Herro? The Heat were infamously hesitant to include Herro in a package for James Harden earlier this season. Would they include him in a star package now? Would opposing teams view him as a viable centerpiece? His future is far murkier than it looked in the bubble, and the Heat aren’t helping matters by limiting his role.
3. Finding certainty in the randomness
The story of this game was, obviously, Milwaukee’s 3-point shooting barrage. They made five 3-pointers in all of Game 1 (while missing 26!), but then doubled that total in the first quarter alone by making 10. They finished this game with 22 and won comfortably, but that shooting isn’t something that can be relied upon. Just look at Game 1.
What quietly demoralized the Heat was what the Bucks could control: they had 21 offensive rebounds. They were scoring virtually every time down the court because even their misses served as little more than practice shots. It’s hard to score fewer than 132 points when you get a do-over on almost every miss.
This is what should terrify the teams waiting for Milwaukee in future rounds. Yes, these shooting barrages are possibilities. The Bucks take among the most 3-pointers in the NBA, so sure, sometimes a lot of them are going to go in. But when they’re cleaning up their own misses like this, they’re almost unbeatable. Who on the Nets plans to prevent Giannis from doing so?