In some cases, there’s simply nothing you can do about big-time players making big-time shots.
The Miami Heat were forced to embrace that on Sunday, as Khris Middleton drained a contested 25-foot three point jumper with 6.9 seconds remaining in overtime, keeping the Milwaukee Bucks alive for Game 5.
The clutch heroics from Middleton was one Miami will suffer from coming into Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. contest, with a chance to end the best-of-seven series and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
And with the uncertainty of Giannis Antetokounmpo for the rest of the series, let alone the upcoming game, it’s safe to believe that Miami’s new focal point will be on the two-time All-Star.
Having scored 36 points in Game 4, including 21 points in the third quarter, the Heat’s efforts to limit Middleton will be urgent from tip-off.
There’s just simply no room for error.
In order to understand what works best against the 6-foot-8 forward, it’s important to look back at what worked and what didn’t.
Take for example the fourth quarter, where Middleton shot 0 of 6 on field goal attempts, a winning factor for the Heat if they would’ve picked things up offensively.
Implementing a variety of defenders, Middleton found it hard to adjust rather than be guarded by one specific player, which in many cases tends to be Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder and Duncan Robinson.
Now, if Miami chooses to implement one direct defender on Middleton, I’d say it should be Tyler Herro alongside a mix of Andre Iguodala and Crowder.
According to the NBA’s Advanced Stats, Herro matched up with the talented shooter for 6:53, resulting in 0 points and 1 block on 0 of 8 shooting. Still, it allowed for 23 Milwaukee team points, along with 4 assists for Middleton.
Iguodala is another candidate for the challenge, as he kept Middleton score-less in 3:26 matchup minutes. As for Crowder, who defended him for 12 minutes and 27 seconds, allowing the forward to score 11 points on 44.4 percent shooting, he’s a reliable option when time winds down.
Even for Butler, who’s struggled to maintain Middleton, allowing him to score 25 points in 9:10 matchup minutes, I’d be comfortable in the five-time All-Star to make needed stops.
We’ll see how that plays out Tuesday evening.