The Milwaukee Bucks lost Game 1 of their first-round series to the Orlando Magic, and now they've lost Game 1 in the second round as well. Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat played fantastic defense to come away with the 115-104 win and take a 1-0 series lead.
Butler has always wanted to be the main man, and he's been up to the task in his first postseason with Miami. After leading them to a first-round sweep of the Indiana Pacers, Butler dominated Game 1 of this series, finishing with 40 points and four rebounds to set a new playoff career-high. Goran Dragic also excelled for the Heat, going for 27 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Giannis Antetokounmpo nearly recorded a triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, but the Heat largely held him in check, and he had a really rough day from the free throw line (4-of-12). Khris Middleton (28 points) and Brook Lopez (24) both had strong nights, but they did most of their work in the first half.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
1. Jimmy G. Buckets
And the G stands for gets. In a game that included the presumptive back-to-back MVP, Jimmy Butler was by far the best player on the floor in Game 1. He scored from all over the floor, got to the free throw line and came up big down the stretch en route to a new playoff career-high 40 points. And that's to say nothing of his defense.
Butler forced his way to Miami this offseason in large part because he wanted to lead a team by himself, and so far in the bubble, he's proved that he can handle that responsibility. Excluding Game 4 against the Pacers, where he missed a large part of the game with a shoulder injury, and played hurt in the second half, he's averaging 28.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and four assists in the postseason, and has always had an answer in crunch time.
Again excluding Game 4 vs. the Pacers, Butler is averaging 9.2 points in fourth quarters, which would be second only to Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell. In Game 1, Butler checked in with 8:56 left, and outscored the Bucks by himself in that span, 15-14. He put them in front with a floater with 5:50 left, and hit big shot after big shot to make sure Milwaukee never saw a lead again.
After the game, Butler's former teammate Joel Embiid summed things up well on Twitter: "Jimmy Butler #TooGood"
2. Giannis struggles at the line
Giannis finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, which would be a great game for most players, but he's set expectations much higher. And while Miami deserves a lot of credit for how they defended him, Giannis was also his own worst enemy in this one.
He finished 4-of-12 from the free throw line, including an airball. It's not as simple as saying "oh, if he made all his free throws the Bucks would have won" because one, they lost by 11, and two, that's just not realistic. However, he was a big reason the Heat won the free throw battle 25-14, despite the two teams having a nearly identical amount of attempts.
For much of his career, Giannis has hovered around the mid to low 70s in terms of free throw percentage, but he's had a lot of trouble at the line this season. He shot a career-low 63.3 percent, and those problems have only gotten worse in the playoffs, where he's at 55.8 percent after the first six games.
It's one thing to miss those free throws in the regular season, or even against the Magic, but as the competition gets better, those are free points the Bucks just can't afford to miss out on.
3. Miami shines on defense
The Heat were a solid, though not a spectacular defensive team in the regular season, finishing 12th in defensive rating, but they've been excellent in the playoffs, and have the personnel to make life difficult for Giannis and the Bucks. That was evident in Game 1 -- at least after the first quarter.
Milwaukee scored 40 points in the first quarter; they scored 63 points the rest of the way. They kept the Bucks in front of them and cut off the lane -- for Giannis, in particular -- hustled back in transition to prevent easy opportunities and played with incredible physicality. Everything was a grind for the Bucks, and they often settled for contested jumpers.
Just check out this possession in the fourth quarter. First, they get back in semi-transition and build a wall with three defenders so Giannis can't slice into the lane. As the ball rotates, they switch a dribble hand-off, force a deflection on a pass, contest to prevent a jumper, cut off multiple drives and force a tough fadeaway.
George Hill ends up getting his own miss on this play, but everything before that exemplified the Heat's effort on defense in Game 1. They're prepared, they're versatile, and they work hard. If this game was any indication, the Bucks are going to have to grind for every basket in this series.