Miami Heat Road Trip, Playoff Push Continue Versus Bucks


The Miami Heat (32-37) had their win streak end on Sunday but still find themselves battling for a spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Milwaukee Bucks (34-36) are right above Miami in the standings but have struggled of late. Can the Heat get back to their winning ways and get one step closer to overtaking the Bucks?

Start Time: 8:00 p.m. EST
Location: Game will be played in Milwaukee at the BMO Harris Bradley Center
TV Info: Fox Sports
Radio: 104.3 The Ticket

These teams represent two ends of the spectrum, at least in terms of how a trade can affect your team. When the Heat acquired Goran Dragic, the team was floundering on offense and lacked both energy and creativity. That’s no longer the case, as the partnership between Dragic and Dwyane Wade revitalized the team and their push for the postseason.

More from Heat News

Conversely, the Milwaukee Bucks sacrificed success this season – a short-term goal in their view – for a long-term vision of success. Guard Brandon Knight (a Miami native that was playing at an All-Star level) was shipped to Phoenix and Michael Carter-Williams was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers. While “MCW”has potential, the pairing has gone as well as expected and Milwaukee has lost six straight games and 13 of their past 16 overall.

Not surprisingly, the Bucks struggle with consistency, just as capable of holding teams to under 90 points as they are to give up well over 100. To their credit, they seem to understand the challenges facing them this season, as head coach Jason Kidd explained to reporters earlier this week following a blowout loss to the Cavaliers:

"“We’re a young team, we’re going to make young mistakes and we have to get better. This is a team game, and we’ve been built as a team. It’s not just one guy, we’ve played 10 to 11 guys. Right now our bench isn’t giving us anything. So we have to get more from our bench and not just rely on those five guys that are starting.”"

Kidd’s point is a good one, as Milwaukee’s cast of reserves have only averaged 19.7 points per game during their recent losing streak, a huge drop-off from their season average of 38.2.

But for all of Kidd’s creativity as a coach – willing to mix-and-match lineups as he sees fit – he may simply have lost control of a team that has traditionally lacked success. There’s a culture of mediocrity and a roster of players that are unfamiliar with the urgency of trying to make the playoffs.

The Heat are all-too-aware of their fate, one that became much more tenuous following a blowout to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. It was a far cry from the exciting, driven team that had won three-straight games last week. And while OKC’s huge front court led to some mismatches (as well as early foul trouble for Hassan Whiteside), the Heat were left reeling for most of the game.

It’s a theme that’s affected the Heat in three previous matchups with the Bucks this season – all Miami losses – where they’ve been outscored by Milwaukee by an average of 12.7 points. While the teams have both changed since their last matchup, you can bet this is going to be a concern for the Heat on Tuesday night.

Despite Milwaukee’s struggles, their have been positives this season, chief among them the growth of Khris Middleton. His season averages aren’t spectacular (13.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists) but he’s shown some spark of late (including a 29-point explosion in a recent overtime loss to Brooklyn). He’s putting up 19 PPG in 11 games this month and the matchup with Wade will be one to watch.

Carter-Williams, to his credit, has put up some big numbers against Dragic throughout his short career. In four games, MCW has averaged 21 points, 7 assist and 5.3 rebounds per game against the former Suns guard. It’s hard to pin all of that on Dragic, given Phoenix’s porous defense over the last few years. Moreover, the Suns won all four games.

Sometimes, a sacrifice has to be made, yielding individual production in favor of a team win. Milwaukee has given up a lot this season already, and a playoff spot might be next.

More from All U Can Heat