The Milwaukee Bucks aren’t the top team in the Eastern Conference for the first time in two seasons and will play the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. ET. Miami knocked Milwaukee off in the second round of last year’s playoffs, but the Bucks have revamped their team. Will things pan out differently this time around? Let’s take a look at the series line at DraftKings Sportsbook.
The Bucks are 2-1 against the Heat this year, but it’s hard to make the argument that they’re the better team when Miami is completely healthy. Injuries and COVID-19 outbreaks forced Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Goran Dragic to miss at least a quarter of the season. Butler didn't even play in any of the Heat’s games against the Bucks this season. Can Miami’s leader make a difference in the postseason and pull off another upset? We think that’s very possible.
Who will win the series?
This isn’t the same Bucks team from last year. Milwaukee added a defensive menace to its backcourt in Jrue Holiday by forking up Eric Bledsoe to the New Orleans Pelicans. PJ Tucker gives the Bucks more defensive versatility in the frontcourt, but the Heat are still elite defensively as well. Like Milwaukee, Miami boasts a top-10 defensive rating. It’s also given up the fifth-fewest points per game. The offense is what separates these two teams.
The Bucks average a league-high 120.1 points per game and have a top-five defensive rating thanks to the efforts of Giannis Antetokounmpo and company. Khris Middleton is averaging a little more than 20 points per game for the third time in four years, and Holiday has become a reliable third option with 17.7 points per game. Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Holiday are elite, two-way players. Miami only has two players it can count on night in and night out.
Butler and Bam Adebayo are undoubtedly All-Stars on both sides of the ball, but Miami lacks the final piece it’s been seeking. Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro have had up and down years, opening up the door for Kendrick Nunn to step back into a starting role. Victor Oladipo was supposed to be the Heat’s third two-way player but is out for the year with a quad injury. Miami brought in some vets to help solidify its roster, but Trevor Ariza and Dewayne Dedmon probably won’t even the playing field against three Bucks stars who are in their primes.
Milwaukee won’t have it easy but should manage to get the job done in six or seven games. It’ll be back on its home court to start, rather than in a bubble in Orlando. Things could get interesting if Miami steals Game 1 or benefits from an injury like last year.
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