Heat eliminated from In-Season Tournament after Bucks loss: 'It Sucks'

The Miami Heat needed a win over the Bucks and some help from other teams in the East to advance to the next stage of the In-Season Tournament. Instead, they were eliminated, but not without an impressive performance by Bam Adebayo.

Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat
Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat / Rich Storry/GettyImages
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The Miami Heat welcomed the Milwaukee Bucks to Kaseya Center Tuesday in what would be their final In-Season Tournament game of the year. Despite big games from Bam Adebayo, the Heat fell to the Bucks, 131-124, and were eliminated from the NBA's inaugural In-Season Tournament.

"It sucks," Kyle Lowry said of failing to advance to the knock-out round, which could have given way to playing in the tournament final in Las Vegas. "We wanted to play."

The Heat needed a win and a Knicks loss at home to the Hornets in order to advance past their Group B. Instead, the Heat lost and the Knicks beat the Hornets by 24 points, eliminating the Heat. Moving on to the knock-out stage will be the Bucks, Pacers, Celtics and Knicks.

Jimmy Butler was sidelined with an ankle injury but that didn't stop the Heat from competing until the final seconds. However, the Heat stumbled and the Bucks showed poise and chemistry late in the second half which led to an offensive surge. 

Giannis Antetekounmpo and Damian Lillard were the frontmen for Milwaukee, combining for 65 points on the night. The Heat seemed to have a successful outing on the defensive end for the first three quarters, leading the way into the final frame. Despite their efforts, the Bucks outscored Miami 38-27 in the fourth quarter. 

“It’s a shame because I thought that we played a very good basketball game, a very good offensive game," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "In particular, I thought there were stretches that were good defensively. This team also can make you look like you’re making mistakes, even when you’re not. This is a shame."

Bam Adebayo was the best player on both ends for Miami. He finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Adebayo was finding his shots, but the Heat lacked consistency. Miami played through spurts and runs rather than finding a true game rhythm. 

“You have two gladiators going at it. That’s extremely physical," Spoelstra said. "Giannis doesn’t take his foot off the pedal at all. For Bam to be able to be that aggressive for 42 minutes, defend the guy that’s the No. 1 paint attacker in the last decade… If he didn’t attack like that we’re not getting those restricted area attempts, or breaking down the defense that opens up for something else."

Part of these runs came from excellent showings in Miami’s second unit. Spoelstra spoke on the importance of the bench prior to the game, knowing that key factors in Butler, Tyler Herro (right ankle sprain) and Haywood Highsmith (lower back contusion) were unavailable. 

Josh Richardson had his best game this season, chipping in 20 points and seven assists on efficient splits. His aggressiveness on both sides was vital for the Heat to run Milwaukee off the 3-point line, yet produce those same opportunities for Miami. He was a phenomenal facilitator, opening up gaps in the Bucks' defense. 

“It’s just been a matter of time, each week he’s been getting a lot more comfortable," Spoelstra said. "It was just a matter of him getting reacclimated to how we do things here, finding his role."

Rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. and forward Caleb Martin had similar games, with Martin scoring 14 points on 2-of-3 from 3 and Jacquez recording 14 points and six assists. Jacquez sparked a run of his own in the second quarter that pushed Miami ahead, while Martin was opportunistic and attacked when holes opened in the defense. 

Both starting guards Lowry and Duncan Robinson also scored in double figures. Lowry scored a rare 20 points, shooting 70% from the field. Robinson didn’t have a splash game, but he was able to knock down some shots that led to 13 points. 

The fundamental factor in Miami’s success was its unselfishness. The Heat had 32 total assists, spreading the wealth throughout the lineup. Their drive and kicks, along with drop screens were able to create open shots on all three levels. 

It may seem like the Heat are improving in some categories, but the loss extends their losing streak to three. They haven’t been fully healthy through the entire season, with starters missing for chunks at a time. There may be obstacles to overcome in Miami, but an answer needs to be found before the Heat fall down the standings. With Butler, Herro and Highsmith expected back soon, that answer might be on the way.

"We obviously didn't finish at the top of the sprint," Lowry said, "but we still have a marathon to run."

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