A nightmare scenario for the Milwaukee Bucks continued to play out in the NBA bubble on Friday in the form of a historic fourth-quarter collapse.
Facing a must-win game, the top-seeded Bucks blew a 12-point fourth quarter advantage in a 115-100 Miami Heat win. The top-seeded Bucks now face a 3-0 series hole in the Eastern Conference semifinals against a team that gives it matchup fits.
Historic 4th-quarter swing
The Bucks appeared on the verge of getting back into the series, taking an 87-75 lead to start the fourth quarter.
But Miami took over the final stanza to secure the win and land on the verge of the Eastern Conference finals. Milwaukee led 91-80 with 9:40 remaining, but the Heat completely controlled the game from there en route to outscoring the Bucks, 40-13 in the fourth quarter.
The 27-point scoring margin was the largest point-differential in the fourth quarter of an NBA playoff game since the shot clock era began in 1955, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The 5th-seeded Heat improve to 7-0 in the playoffs with the win.
Jimmy Butler leads the way — again
Jimmy Butler once was once again the best player on the court, as the Miami defense continued to hold presumptive MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in check.
Butler tallied 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists. He did much of his damage from the free throw line, where he connected on 14-of-19 attempts. He outscored Milwaukee by himself in the fourth quarter, 17-13.
His aggressive play was in stark contrast to Antetokounmpo, who regularly settled for 3-point attempts.
Antetokounmpo delivered a full box score, posting 21 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists. But his 7-of-21 effort from the field was glaring, as was his 0-7 performance from beyond the arc.
Heat let Giannis shoot from distance
Shortly after Miami took a 94-93 lead midway through the fourth quarter, Antetokounmpo found himself with the ball at the top of the key. Miami’s defense declined to challenge him on the perimeter, inviting him to shoot.
Shoot he did. His sixth 3-point attempt of the night clanged off the back of the rim. Miami outscored Milwaukee, 21-7 from that point forward.
Was Giannis hurt?
Antetokounmpo rolled his right ankle in the first quarter, but continued to play. It’s not clear if or how much the tweak impacted his play for the rest of the game.
He told reporters postgame that his ankle didn’t bother him. But he limped away from the arena, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.
Ankle tweak or not, it doesn’t much matter for Milwaukee as it faces the unlikely task of winning four straight games against Miami to keep its season alive.
Bam comes up big
Butler wasn’t the only hero on the night for Miami. Bam Adebayo packed in 20 points, 16 rebounds and a pair of blocks while drawing the bulk of the defensive work against Antetokounmpo. The third-year center was pegged by many before the series as a matchup problem for Antetokounmpo. He has delivered.
The Heat were the more aggressive team most of the night, getting to the foul line 34 times compared to 21 for the Bucks. They looked to their their cadre of long-distance shooters to connect on 18-of-47 (38.3 percent) 3-point attempts, compared to an 11-of-37 (29.7 percent) performance from the Bucks.
It’s difficult to fine an avenue where the Heat weren’t the better team on Friday — or for the entire series.
Not much from Bucks’ supporting cast
Brook Lopez once again got his for the Bucks, tallying 22 points and six rebounds while shooting 3-of-7 from 3-point distance. He’s scored 16 and 24 points in the prior Bucks losses in the series as the Heat seem content to focus efforts elsewhere, daring Lopez to beat them.
Khris Middleton added 18 points and seven assists while Eric Bledsoe was largely a non-factor, tallying eight points and four rebounds in 30 minutes.
For a much of Friday’s game, it looked like the Bucks were going to bounce back to make this a competitive series. But when the game was on the line, the Heat proved again that they’re the better team — even if they don’t have the best player in the series.
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