History was made on Tuesday when the Miami Heat upset the 1 seed Bucks, arguably the best team in the NBA. This will be the first conference finals appearance for the Heat since the Big 3 era.
Heading into the bubble, the Bucks entered as the best team in the league, record wise. They definitely did not leave the bubble as the best team seeing as they didn't advance past the second round. Instead, the Heat, who entered as a sleeper team, will face the winner of the Celtics and Raptors series.
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After taking a commanding 3-0 series lead, the Heat finished the Bucks off in 5 games. While Games 4 and 5 weren't too pretty for Miami, it still got the job done. The Heat were lucky in this series as Giannis Antetokounmpo did not look at all like the MVP and DPOY recipient that we saw for the majority of the season. Giannis's injury in Game 4 dealt another blow to a Bucks team that was facing elimination. Despite what some doubters may say, this writer believes that even with a fully healthy Giannis, the Heat would have still advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. Maybe Giannis would have forced an extra game or two. Credit does have to be given to the Bucks for winning Game 4 without Giannis, and forcing overtime.
Miami Heat Series Recap!
As expected from Heat fans, Jimmy Butler put his body on the line all series by establishing his presence in the paint and driving hard to the basket in crunch time. Butler proved many people wrong about his value to a Miami Heat team, which is full of depth. While Duncan Robinson wasn't at his best against one of the worst 3 point defending teams, Tyler Herro stepped up big, sinking clutch shots in the biggest moments. Herro's success is amplified by the fact that he is a rookie playing in his first career playoffs. Bam Adebayo played great in all 5 games, even though the Heat had rebounding problems throughout the whole series.
The two Heat players that had the biggest impact in this series were Goran Dragic and Jae Crowder. Even though Butler provides the most help to the Heat, others would need to step up to beat the Bucks, and that is exactly what happened. In every regular season game, Dragic came off the bench. Only when the Heat entered the bubble did Dragic begin to start games at the 1. Dragic recorded 15 plus points in all 5 games this series, and was very good in the 4th quarter, like Jimmy Butler. Jae Crowder, who no one expected to be in the starting lineup for the Heat when he was traded from the Grizzlies, was amazing from the 3 point line in this series. Crowder defended Middleton well and also drew some key offensive fouls. Credit does have to be given to Middleton who made some amazing contested shots, despite being closely guarded by Crowder.
Bucks Series Recap
The Bucks came into this series with the best record and the highest expectations for an NBA team. That didn't matter as they were ultimately upset by the Heat. Giannis's injury did have a big impact in this series, but I doubt the injury would have changed the outcome, in which the Heat advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Middleton played at his full capacity, especially when Giannis went down with the injury, but his surrounding pieces weren't enough without Giannis. Brook Lopez also deserves credit as he was amazing from behind the arc. The role players for the Bucks were below average at best: Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, Pat Connaughton, and even Kyle Korver didn't step up.
With an elimination in Round 2, Giannis may be be on the move as he hits free agency this offseason. His top destination is actually the team that knocked him out of the playoffs: the Miami Heat. This marks the second straight season that Giannis and the Bucks had the league's best record during the regular season but failed to make it out of the Eastern Conference. Last year, the Bucks lost in six games to the Toronto Raptors in the ECF. Giannis probably wants a change of scenery and better playoff hopes, so it is likely that Giannis played his last game as a Milwaukee Buck.