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Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks sweep Miami Heat to reach Eastern Conference semifinals

Seven months after struggling a devastating defeat within the 2020 convention semifinals to the Miami Heat as a No. 1 seed, the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday avenged that loss with a 120-103 win, clinching their first-round sequence over the Heat in a sweep.

“It’s a great moment for us, winning 4-0, and beating the team that beat us last year,” Bucks ahead Giannis Antetokounmpo mentioned. “But at the end of the day, we have a long way to go.”

Though his efficiency wasn’t notably environment friendly by way of the primary three quarters, Antetokounmpo tied a profession excessive — and set a brand new private playoff greatest — with 15 assists. He discovered teammates by threading the needle from the perimeter and with skillful inside passes within the paint.

“Being able to affect the game in multiple ways, and not just getting into the paint and dunking,” Antetokounmpo mentioned. “Don’t get me wrong. If I could dunk every single play, I’d try to dunk every single play. But just being mature, having my head up, and looking for guys when they’re open was big for us.”

Four Bucks gamers completed with 20 or extra factors — together with Middleton and Forbes — with middle Brook Lopez main the best way with 25, on 11-for-15 capturing. Though Lopez has prolonged his vary in Milwaukee and sometimes spends many possessions out on the perimeter, he did not try a single shot from past the arc on Saturday. Instead, he exacted his harm inside towards a Miami protection that had no reply for Milwaukee’s inside recreation all through the sequence. Lopez completed 9-for-9 from the sphere within 10 ft in Game 4.

The Bucks distinguished themselves defensively within the sequence, and once more within the second half within the clincher on Saturday. Miami managed solely a 95.4 offensive ranking over the 4 video games, the bottom hole for a playoff staff in six postseasons.

Antetokounmpo accepted the task of defending the Heat’s most prolific offensive participant, the Heat swingman Jimmy Butler. Though he matched Antetokounmpo’s triple-double in Game 4, Butler shot solely 4-for-15 from the sphere and posted an abysmal true capturing proportion (39.4) for the sequence.

“Giannis has unique defensive talent, and Butler is such a great talent, scorer, passer,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer mentioned. “It takes a lot of discipline to guard a guy like Jimmy Butler. For Giannis to have that discipline with the competitiveness makes him special.”

In addition to Antetokounmpo’s work on Butler, Lopez served as an indomitable presence within the paint for Milwaukee defensively. He contested 76 photographs within the sequence, and Miami shot simply 32% on these attempts, by ESPN Stats & Information analysis.

Milwaukee’s dominance on the glass was one other decisive thing about its sweep of the Heat. The Bucks collected greater than a 3rd of their missed shot attempts — their 33.6% offensive rebounding charge through the sequence would have led the NBA through the common season by a substantial margin. Likewise, their 78.8% defensive rebounding charge towards Miami would have additionally led the league through the common season.

“When you look back on this series, we controlled the boards, which was a huge part of getting out in transition and giving us second-chance points,” Middleton mentioned. “Everybody had a part controlling the boards for us. We were able to limit them to one shot.”

The sweep concluded the Heat’s season, which included 20 missed video games for Butler as Miami earned the No. 6 seed within the East.

The Heat enters the offseason with wage cap flexibility, which can allow them to bolster the roster if they are so select. Only Butler, Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Precious Achiuwa, and KZ Okpala carry assured contracts into the 2021-22 season.

“We can be better,” Butler mentioned. “We’ll get better.”

Milwaukee will now have not less than a full week off earlier than it meets both the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics in a convention semifinal. The Bucks will enter with quite a lot of momentum.

“Peaking at the right moment — we feel we’re doing that,” Lopez mentioned. “And we still feel like we’re getting better every single night.”

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