The Milwaukee Bucks fought hard, but ultimately they were unable to extend their season without reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and they fell to the Miami Heat 103-94 in Game 5 on Tuesday night. The game was a tight one all the way to the end, but the Heat ultimately pulled out a victory thanks to some solid defense and clutch free throw shooting.
Jimmy Butler led the way for the Heat in Game 5 with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Goran Dragic added 16 points and four rebounds. The Heat will now move on to the Eastern Conference finals -- somewhere they haven't been since 2014 when the team was led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh -- and they will face off against the winner of the series between the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics.
Khris Middleton paced the Bucks with 23 points and seven rebounds, and Donte DiVincenzo added 17 points. Without Antetokounmpo that production just wasn't enough though, and the Bucks will now be heading home from the Disney bubble. This marks the second straight season that the Bucks had the league's best record during the regular season but failed to make it out of the Eastern Conference, as they lost in six games to the Toronto Raptors in the conference finals last season.
Here are three main takeaways from Game 5:
1. Tough way for a stellar season to end for Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the reigning NBA MVP, and he's likely to be named MVP for the second straight season soon. He's the freshly-crowned Defensive Player of the Year, and he's clearly one of the most competitive players in the league today. As such, it had to be extremely tough for Antetokounmpo to end his season on the sideline, unable to help his teammates overcome the Heat. Losing is one thing, but losing as a spectator when you're accustomed to being the top option for your team is likely even tougher. If there's any silver lining of this elimination from the Bucks is the fact that Antetokounmpo will likely enter the offseason extremely motivated. As great as he is, he had his struggles against the Heat, and there's clearly room from improvement. All-time greats like Michael Jordan and LeBron James have used playoff letdowns as motivation to come back bigger and better. Perhaps Antetokounmpo will do the same.
2. Milwaukee unsurprisingly struggled to score without Antetokounmpo
Milwaukee struggled to score in this game, which really should come as no surprise given the fact that they were without their top scorer and best player in Giannis. Their 94-point total was their lowest of the postseason and the only time that they failed to reach 100. So much of Milwaukee's offense revolves around Antetokounmpo's ability to draw defenders on his drives and in turn open things up for his teammates and without him, the looks just weren't there. The Bucks tried to force-feed the ball to Khris Middleton, and he did what he could, but he's not built to be a top option, and he too typically benefits from the attention paid to Antetokounmpo. When the opposition is keying is on you more, as the Heat were on Middleton with Giannis out, it becomes harder to produce. With the Heat keying on Middleton, the Bucks needed Eric Bledsoe to provide a spark offensively, but he was unable to. He finished with just 9 points on 2-for-12 shooting. Unfortunately for Bledsoe, poor play in the postseason has become a bit of a trend.
After seeing how much they struggled to produce points with Giannis sidelined, it will be interesting to see if the Bucks look to add some ancillary scorers over the offseason.
3. Heat won the battle of the benches
NBA teams tend to rely more heavily on starters during the postseason, but sometimes a bench performance can make the difference between a win and a loss. In Game 4, Miami dominated the battle of the benches. Led by Tyler Herro (14 points) and Kelly Olynyk (12 points), Miami's bench outscored Milwaukee's 38-19. With 11 points, Marvin Williams was really the only player who made a meaningful offensive contribution off the bench for the Milwaukee. In a game that was ultimately decided by single-digits, a 19-point disparity in bench production is a big deal. Thanks largely to their depth, the Heat were able to become just the third team seeded 5th or lower over the last 25 postseasons to reach the conference finals.