If Brandon Jennings wants his dreams of a six-game upset of the number one seed Miami Heat, his Milwaukee Bucks will now need to beat their opponent twice at home following a 110-87 loss.
Miami lost four games at home all year. History leads you to believe the Heat are not going to fall to the Milwaukee Bucks in four of the next five games.
Or at all. Milwaukee was able to hang around for the first 30 minutes on long-range jumpers from Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, but dreams of an upset were dashed once LeBron James came to life near the end of the third quarter.
Miami had been flirting all quarter with the idea of putting Milwaukee away for good, but the Bucks continued to hit jumpers to stay in it.
After an Ellis’ jumper with 2:28 left in the third cut it to 8, James and Chris Andersen combined for a 7-0 run, facilitated by three dunks, that sent the Heat into the fourth with an 80-65 lead.
James started the binge with a throwdown over Ekpe Udoh and then hit ‘Birdman’ with a pin-point pass in the lane for another dunk. Andersen then blew the top off the Triple A with a flying putback dunk that nearly caused LeBron to began flapping, as the rest of the stadium was doing.
The Bucks never got it within 13 following the two-man onslaught and Miami’s lead ballooned to as much as 25.
LeBron James was his usual efficient self. He made eight of his first nine shots, got to the line for 11 free throws, and finished with a robust 27 points on 9-of-11 shooting, 10 rebounds and 8 assists in 34 minutes.
He rejected a number of three-point opportunities, instead choosing to drive and put pressure on the Milwaukee bigs. By the end of the night, Sanders and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had combined for nine personal fouls.
LeBron only took 2 of his 11 shots from outside of the paint.
James and the Heat attacked throughout the night, scoring 110 points despite converting only seven of their 23 three-pointers. Miami shot 56 percent as a team, and held their opponent to 42 percent shooting overall and 27 percent from beyond the arc.
The Heat rocketed out of the start like a team that had been waiting for the postseason to start since day 1 of the regular season. They jumped out to a 10-2 lead in two minutes and held a 13-point lead halfway through the first.
Milwaukee, however, slowed down the tempo and cut the Heat lead to two going into the first. Nothing was enough, though, as Miami kept the lead throughout the contest and used a 6-2 run to close the second after only being up three with two minutes left.
A 9-2 run by the Heat to open the second half put any honest chance of a Milwaukee comeback out of reach. Chris Bosh hit a three-pointer during the run; one of three he hit on the day.
Bosh hit two of those three-pointers within the first two minutes, four seconds of the game. He finished with 15 points on 7 shots, grabbed 7 rebounds and blocked 2 shots.
Bosh was a menace in terms of Larry Sanders’ agenda. With Bosh dropping long-range shots early, the Bucks’ center was forced to play out on the perimeter. When he wasn’t being tormented by Bosh, he was picking up fouls in the middle.
Sanders had 5 fouls in 18 minutes, 41 seconds. The league’s second-leading shot-blocker didn’t have a single rejection.
The Bucks, outscored 50-34 in the paint, were supported by the shooting from their dynamic backcourt, composed of Ellis and Jennings. The duo combined for 48 points on 39 shots and combined for five of the Bucks’ seven three-pointers, as well as 11 of their misses.
Nobody else on Milwaukee scored more than 6 points. Miami was forcing Milwaukee guards into jumpers all night, knowing it could only keep the Bucks in it for so long.
J.J. Redick, an expected pest, played only 16 minutes and scored all six of his points in an already-decided game. Ray Allen forced 2 early fouls on Redick, failing to get into any sort of rhythm.
Miami may have won by 23, but they could have easily won by 30. Milwaukee hung around off of low-percentage jumpers for nearly three quarters and saw the Heat cough up the ball 19 times.
Milwaukee also had 14 more shots than Miami, and withstood a combined 3-of-15 from beyond the arc from Shane Battier and Ray Allen. That’s not going to happen every game.
Allen struggled with his three-point shot, but was wildly efficient in his first playoff game in a Heat uniform. He had 20 points on 13 shots, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in 29 minutes.
He looked at home. He also capped off the game with one last highlight in the form of a 25-foot alley-oop to LeBron James:
Miami outscored Milwaukee’s bench 43-25. Andersen had 10 points 4-of-4 shooting to go along with 7 boards and an assist.
Miami outscored Milwaukee 58-42 in the second half. The Bucks never stood a chance, nor do they stand one for the duration of this series.
The series continues in Miami with Game 2 on Tuesday.