If the playoffs started right now, the Miami Heat would play the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. With six games left and with the Boston Celtics having won three more games than the Bucks, tonight’s game is most likely a little preview of the first round of the playoffs.
For the Heat, injuries have been the biggest talking point. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh have all missed time recently with Wade out for the longest period of time with an injured right knee — the last time Wade played was March 29th. LeBron missed three games with a hamstring tweak, but came back to score 27 points on Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers. Chris Bosh sat out last game with a hyperextended right knee and it is unknown if he will try to play tonight.
Having LeBron James, Wade, and Bosh sit this game out might be a good decision as the Heat gain nothing by playing the Big Three. The Heat have locked up the East number one seed, and almost locked up the NBA number one overall seed (San Antonio is three games back), so there is nothing really to play for. Is it really worth it to risk injury and give up valuable information about the sets the Heat run against the Bucks or the pick-and-roll defense they use? Being 100% and ready to go for the playoffs should be the number one goal for this Miami Heat team.
Even for an eight seed, the Bucks aren’t an easy out, and the Heat are 2-1 against Milwaukee (the Heat lost to the Bucks on December 29th). When playing Milwaukee, they score 104.2 points per 100 possessions, but also give up 102.7 points per 100 possessions. Part of the reason why they have a stagnant offense when playing the Bucks is that Miami’s true shooting percentage is 55% against Milwaukee, which is lower than their season average of 58%. However, the Bucks have struggled recently going 2-3 in their last five games and 3-7 in their last ten. They have shot 43.7% from the field, which is good for 24th in the NBA.
The key players for the Bucks are Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. If that backcourt combo can shoot and distribute the ball effectively, the Heat are in for a long night. While Ellis has improved recently (at one point this season Ellis was shooting around 20% from three point range) he still is a chucker at heart — and Brandon Jennings is cast from the same mold. However, if Ellis’ chucks are falling, it certainly will make for an interesting game.