|Was there ever a doubt?|
This game started off about as wacky and backwards as it could have. The Heat (usually a very good ball-handling team) committed several turnovers that led to more possessions for the Bucks. Milwaukee’s scoring backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings couldn’t buy a basket in the first half—seriously, they didn’t score one field goal (0/7) the entire 1st half of the game. They did, however, assist on 8 baskets as the frontcourt players attacked relentlessly. Mike Dunleavy, Larry Sanders, Marquis Daniels and Luc Mbah a Moute all shot and rebounded well enough to keep the Bucks in the game. Combine that with the 2/9 3 pt shooting that plagued the defending champions in the first half, and you get the 47-43 Heat lead.
While some things were quirky, LeBron James’ production was as regular and phenomenal as ever. 15 points and a few assists were efficiently garnered on 5/6 shots in 18 minutes. The second half brought more of the same from Ellis and Jennings, both continued to facilitate and struggle with their own shot (Ellis finally broke the basket-less streak with a transition layup with 8:24 left in the quarter). But their ability to draw a crowd on the pick and roll allowed Sanders more room to cut to the basket and amass his points at the rim.
Not to be outdone by the opposing frontcourt player, Chris Bosh began to show his teeth on offense with some drives and jumpers in the lane. Dwyane Wade was similarly offensive minded with a series of highlight plays including this one. Still, missed shots and turnovers allowed Milwaukee to stay in the game and to get into transition. The Bucks finished the 3rd Quarter on a 5-0 streak and within 3 points with a score of 65-68.
In the first minute and a half the Heat showed what they have shown all year: The ability to turn up. Defensively they blocked shots, played passing lanes, and had a 12-0 run in the blink of an eye that stretched the lead to 15 before Bucks coach Jim Boylan was forced to call a timeout with 9:37 remaining in the game. Suddenly the Bucks going 0/2 with two turnovers put them out of the game. After that, the game was essentially over. LeBron and Wade closed the show and retained the homecourt advantage for the Heat.
Interestingly, John Henson (who plays a similar role to Sanders with his ability to protect the cup and dive to the basket) got virtually no time in the second game. While I can understand not wanting too many bigs on the court clogging the lane and preventing Jennings and Ellis from driving, Henson has the lateral quickness to switch on Pick and Rolls that are the staple of Miami’s offense. Combine that with the fact that adding a quality rebounder like Henson against the worst rebounding team in the league, and his ability to protect the cup with his shot blocking, and it seems like there would be a place for the former Tar Heel in the rotation.
No one is under any illusions about the Bucks’ chances to win the series; hell, you may have trouble finding a bet that they’d win a game. But getting the young core legitimate time could be invaluable moving forward for them and the franchise.