The Miami Heat’s fairy tale start to the game ended in pure disappointment.
A 23-point second quarter lead later translated to a 14-point loss, as the Heat fell to the Milwaukee Bucks 116-130.
In fact, it’s the most points the Heat have allowed this season, as they fail to sweep their season-series over the Bucks.
Finishing the game on a 20-2 run, Milwaukee outscored Miami 38-18 in the fourth quarter, controlling the pace of the game late.
“It’s not like we were up 40,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said postgame. “The way the NBA game is now, you have to play consistently for 48 minutes. There’s going to be a lot of ebbs and flows back and forth. You have to give them credit. They stepped up their pressure.”
That comeback effort was led by the reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, who combined for 66 points. Antetokounmpo finished with 33 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists. Middleton scored 33 points on 9 of 14 shooting, including five three-pointers.
Duncan Robinson collected a team-high 21 points on 7 of 11 shooting Thursday. Jae Crowder totaled 15 points, Kendrick Nunn 14 and Kelly Olynyk 13.
Tyler Herro stepped in off the bench, closing with 20 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists. Andre Iguodala finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists and Derrick Jones Jr. added 12 points on 3 of 4 shooting.
Bam Adebayo, who led the Heat in scoring (21) in Tuesday’s victory, was limited to just 6 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists, as foul trouble cut his night to just 22 minutes.
Milwaukee’s victory clinches them the first seed in the Eastern Conference. As for the Heat, they’re now 2.5 games behind the Boston Celtics for the third spot in the East.
Miami now preps for Saturday’s meeting against the Phoenix Suns, who’ve won all four of their “seeding” games at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex.
5 takeaways on the Heat’s loss:
1 – Second half troubles demonstrate the need for Butler and Dragic.
Entering the third quarter with a 73-56 lead, Miami quickly learned about why the Bucks have a 54-14 record. Using a 26-8 spurt, Milwaukee claimed an 82-81 lead with 5:11 on the clock. Turnovers, missed shots and the need for a playmaker hurt the Heat when things weren’t clicking.
Usually, Jimmy Butler would be that guy to take Miami out of trouble, attacking the basket and preventing another teams’ comeback efforts. And when Butler was out, it was Goran Dragic, doing just that in Tuesday’s victory over the Boston Celtics, posting 20 points and 3 assists.
However, with both players out with injury, it took creativity to limit Milwaukee’s impressive run. And with Bam Adebayo with four fouls with 8:42 left in the third quarter, things got harder than usual.
“We went through a lot of emotions in the second half,” Spoelstra said. “Ultimately I think those are good things for our team to go through in prep for the playoffs.”
Especially when shooting 32 percent in the second-half, along with 12 turnovers. Miami was outscored 74-43 in the final two quarters.
“It’s a good learning experience for us and I think we’ll be able to bounce back like we always do,” Tyler Herro said.
2 – It’s Tyler time.
With Goran Dragic out, Tyler Herro made it his mission to step up for the Heat’s bench. From the jump, he did exactly that, ending the first half with 16 points on 4 of 6 shooting, making all 7 of his free-throws.
On the defensive end, he recorded one steal, which led to an alley-oop to Derrick Jones Jr., which helped trigger a 14-8 run to end the first quarter.
Herro finished the game with 20 points on 6 of 12 shooting.
3 – Heat’s electric three-point shooting starts with Robinson, Crowder.
There hasn’t been a better three-point shooting performance for the Heat in the NBA’s “bubble,” especially in the first half. Shooting 13 of 24 from beyond the arc, Miami pushed its second quarter lead to 23 points with 4:31 remaining.
That continued throughout the third and fourth quarters, finishing the game on 45.6 percent (21 of 46) shooting from beyond the arc. Jae Crowder and Duncan Robinson led the Heat’s three-point efforts, with Crowder hitting 4 of 6 shots from deep and Robinson 5 of 9.
Meanwhile, Kendrick Nunn (4 of 10), Derrick Jones Jr. (2 of 3), Kelly Olynyk (1 of 4), Tyler Herro (1 of 5), Solomon Hill (1 of 4), Andre Iguodala (2 of 4) and Bam Adebayo (1 of 1) contributed on threes attempted.
4 – Heat’s bench continues to produce.
One man out, next man in was Miami’s go-to for its rotational players Thursday, who totaled 45 points off the bench. While led by Herro’s 20 points, Derrick Jones Jr. and Andre Iguodala both added 12 points.
Solomon Hill, who last played in Miami’s victory against the Denver Nuggets, finished with 3 points and 2 steals.
5 – Nunn bouncing back from bizarre start at Disney.
Entering Thursday’s contest, Kendrick Nunn had recorded a total of 17 points in the Heat’s three “seeding” games, seeing his minutes reduce because of his poor play. Regardless, with the absence of Butler and Dragic, it was important for the starting guard to pick it up.
Nunn finished his 29-minute performance with 14 points on 5 of 17 shooting, 5 rebounds and 2 assists. He now becomes the first undrafted NBA rookie to record 1,000 points in a season during the common draft era, which began in 1966.