Ahead by 87-83, a crucial lapse in defensive rebounding off a missed free throw in the waning minutes and missed free throws of their own evaporated the Milwaukee Bucks’ chances of knocking off the scorching Miami Heat Friday night at the Bradley Center.
Stop me if you’ve heard this Milwaukee Bucks story before, most notably all of last year until just before the NBA Trading Deadline in February.
Excluding an abysmal first quarter that gave the Heat a 30-18 advantage and kept the sold out crowd at bay, the Bucks played the most complete three quarters of basketball of the season before going cold again in overtime and dropping the game 101-95 to give Miami their eighth straight road win.
Over that 36 minutes of regulation play, the Bucks outshot (48.2% to 34.9%) and outscored the Heat (73-61, including an unbelievable defensive effort that limited Miami to 36 total points in the second half).
At one point in the third quarter, a lineup consisting of Earl Boykins, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Luc Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova, and Jon Brockman managed to hang with Miami’s Big Three and swing a five point deficit to an 81-81 tie a few minutes into the fourth.
That lockdown defensive effort was translated in the final stat lines for LeBron James (eight second half points, 8-23 shooting overall), Chris Bosh (6-16), and Dwyane Wade (4-19), who spent most of the second half in the faces of referees for their willingness to let Milwaukee play them tight any chance they got.
Andrew Bogut tallied a career high 27 rebounds, Chris Douglas-Roberts became the first Bucks player in the 2010-11 season to break the 30 point mark, and Earl Boykins tear dropped a tying floater off the backboard with 1.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter, continuing his stretch of impressive Brandon Jennings-like play off the bench.
Milwaukee’s inability to put the Heat away for good with free points (17-24 from the line, including two crucial CDR misses in the waning seconds of the final quarter) allowed the seemingly contained Miami superstars small windows of opportunity they couldn’t resist.
Pessimist: Almost perfect Milwaukee Bucks aren’t perfect enough to beat the Heat
The Bucks took the Heat to overtime after a 30-18 drubbing in the first quarter, and it shows just how near perfect they were over the last three of the game. Unfortunately, close isn’t close enough against a team that had won 19 of its last 20 games, with the only loss coming at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks by two points.
Missed free throws, especially the two potential game-tying ones by Chris Douglas-Roberts with 26 seconds left to play in the fourth quarter, doomed Milwaukee to rely on their defense and shooting in crunch time. As mentioned before, you already know how that one goes.
Optimist: Bucks role players are coming into their roles
The versatility of Chris Douglas-Roberts was on full display over a three possession stretch in the second quarter. After draining a three pointer, CDR stopped on a dime and dropped in a mid-range jumper, and added a lay-up a few seconds later just for good measure. Douglas-Roberts was easily the most fearless player on the court of either team, and showed just what he can do at the top of his still young game.
Earl Boykins zig-zagged around the court on his way to 14 (mostly) clutch points off surprising drives into the lane and a handful of mid-range jumpers. He also flashed a little Brandon Jennings-style confidence by telling coach Scott Skiles that he wanted the ball in crunch time.
Ersan Ilyasova made the most of his three offensive rebounds in typical “fly in from the back court for a put back” fashion, and Luc Mbah a Moute made 5-7 shots on a combination of impressive maneuvers under the basket and drives off the dribble that complimented his already excellent defensive efforts.
Realist: There really is a light at the end of the tunnel
It’s always easy to use the argument in any sport that playing the same team twice in less than a week’s span is tough to do, regardless of their current record. But the fact is the Miami Heat had lost once since November 29, and it was by two points against a solid Dallas Mavericks team.
The Bucks are nearing the end of the NBA schedule version of crossing the River Styx, and there’s no question Milwaukee is a better team now than they were in November. The defense has always been strong (expect nothing less from even the worst Scott Skiles-coached teams), and
Soon the Bucks will be rewarded with the easiest second half schedule in the NBA, complete with 17 of their next 20 opponents falling below the .500 mark and the impending returns of Brandon Jennings, Drew Gooden, and hopefully Carlos Delfino. Things are definitely looking up for the Milwaukee Bucks, starting tonight against the New Jersey Nets.
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