The Milwaukee Bucks are hoping the third time is a charm. After posting the best record in the NBA in each of the previous two seasons, they flamed out in the playoffs. Using a different approach this season, the Bucks finished third in the Eastern Conference and will take on the Miami Heat Saturday in Game 1 of the opening round series. The Heat made quick work of Milwaukee last season toppling the No. 1 seed in five games in the second round. Revenge is a great motivator and two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo should be ready to go after getting shutdown against Miami’s defense last season.
This NBA playoff game takes place on Saturday, May 22, 2021 and will air live on ESPN with tip off at 2 p.m. ET from Fiserv Forum.
Miami Heat vs Milwaukee Bucks Odds
Spread: Miami Heat +4.5 | Milwaukee Bucks -4.5
Money Line: Miami Heat +163 | Milwaukee Bucks -183
Season to Date
The Heat finished with a flurry winning 12 of their last 16 games to claim the No. 6 seed thus avoiding the play-in tournament. Instead they get the Bucks in the first round and after last season’s playoff win they have a blueprint to beat Giannis and his mates. Miami was plagued by injuries, COVID issues and inconsistent play early in the season, but they overcame everything to finish 40-32 SU and 34-36-2 ATS.
The Heat finished with a winning record on the road going 19-17 SU and ATS, but their lone trip to Milwaukee resulted in a 122-108 loss just over a week ago in a game Jimmy Butler didn’t play. The Heat will have to play a strong defensive game to win. They allowed an average of 108 points during the regular season but surrendered nearly 125 points per game to Milwaukee.
Two seasons with the best record in the league and without even a trip to the conference final to show for it, the Bucks made a few changes to the roster last offseason. The biggest addition was Jrue Holiday, an upgrade at point guard and a player the Bucks feel can make a difference. He helped the offense score the most points per game this season averaging 17.7 points and 6.1 assists. Seven regulars averaged in double figures led by Antetokounmpo at 28.1 and Khris Middleton with 20.4. As a team the Bucks scored over 120 points per game with the OVER going 41-31.
Having Butler available and at close to 100 percent gives the Heat a fighting chance in this one. A back injury forced him out of the last two regular season games, one of which was a loss to the Bucks. Just how important is Jimmy Buckets? Well, with him in the lineup the Heat were 33-19 and held opponents to just over 106 points per game. Without him they were 7-13 with the points allowed ballooning by nearly seven points per game.
The additional time off between games should allow for Butler’s return. And that’s huge since he missed all three games during the regular season and the Bucks seemingly scored at will. Miami got stronger toward the end of the season, which wasn’t lost on playoff hero Tyler Herro. “We feel good as a team. We feel like we’re trending in the right direction,” he said.
The Bucks have something to prove this postseason and they can send a message to the rest of the conference and the league with a Game 1 win. Giannis was shut down by the Heat last postseason and didn’t finish the series, so you know he’s chomping at the bit for some payback. And while they didn’t have the sparkling record and finished third in the conference, this team is built better for postseason success.
With seven players who saw significant time during the year averaging at least 10 points the Bucks have no problems scoring the basketball. They led the Association with over 120 points per game while ranking third in field goal percentage and fifth in three-point accuracy. Defense, however, was an issue. Opponents averaged 114.2 points and shot over 38 percent from deep. The Bucks need to keep those numbers down, especially from behind the arc where the Heat can be deadly.
Heat vs Bucks Prediction
Our picks: Milwaukee Bucks -4.5 and OVER 227
They won two of three during the regular season, but the pressure is on Milwaukee after past playoff failures. A little incentive is nice and winning the first game is huge. The Bucks are a better team on paper than they were last year and they are motivated, which is why I’m backing the MVP and his club in this one.