The Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat are set to meet in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs in what will be a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference finals when the Heat bested the Bucks in five games to advance to the NBA Finals. The Heat will be looking to pull off a repeat performance, while the Bucks will obviously be hoping for a different outcome.
It's not an ideal first round matchup for either team, as the Bucks would probably rather face off against a less talented and experienced team to kick off what they hope will be a deep playoff run, while the Heat likely would have finished higher in the standings in the East if they weren't hampered by injury and COVID-related issues early on in the season. But, that's the way the cookie crumbles, as they say, and now the two teams will have to face each other in the first round. One will win and advance to the second round, and the other team will head home, disappointed.
(3) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (6) Miami Heat
- Date: Saturday, May 22 | Time: 2 p.m. ET
- Location: Fiserv Forum -- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN
- Odds: MIA +185; MIL -215; O/U 226.5 (via William Hill Sportsbook)
Bucks: The Bucks made several changes after losing to the Heat in the playoffs last year. They added Jrue Holiday over the offseason to provide Giannis Antetokounmpo with another premier sidekick, they altered their defensive scheme to include more switching, and they tweaked their offensive approach to take some of the late-game offensive burden off of Antetokounmpo. Now, we'll finally see if those changes will work in the postseason. Antetokounmpo, for one, doesn't necessarily sound super optimistic.
"I don't know if this year is gonna be different," Antetokounmpo said. "I'm not gonna lie to you. It might be the same. Who knows. The results are gonna talk for themselves in the end. But at the end of the day, I don't get too high, don't get too low. I feel like last year, probably because of the bubble I wasn't able to get away from basketball. Like, losing a game and just going to the hotel and seeing the players that just beat you, you got too low."
If the outcome isn't different this time around, major changes could be coming to Milwaukee, both to the roster and the coaching staff. So, to say the stakes are high for the Bucks in this series would be an understatement.
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Heat: The Heat are in a similar position to the one that they were in entering the postseason last year, as they've flown a bit under the radar and aren't a top seed, but are still extremely dangerous. Outside of Jae Crowder, the Heat have virtually the same squad that advanced to the Finals last year -- the squad that beat the top-seeded Bucks in just five games. The pressure will be on the Bucks again, too, which should work in Miami's favor.
All the pressure is on the Bucks here, and after having a year to ruminate on their loss to the Heat, you'd have to think that they'll come out focused and ready to send a message in Game 1. When the two teams played in the bubble, Jrue Holiday wasn't in Milwaukee, but now he is, and he could be an x-factor in Game 1 and the series as a whole. Pick: Bucks -4.5