It’s not very often a 52-9 team even exists in the NBA. Well actually, it’s almost never.
As of when they were 51-8, only three teams in NBA history had posted better records than this year’s Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks are truly one of the best regular season teams in league history which is part of why last night’s result was so fascinating.
For the second time this season, the Bucks lost to the Miami Heat. Normally for a team like the Bucks, people would consider this a regular season aberration but I’m of the mindset it wasn’t. In fact, I thoroughly believe the Heat have more than a punchers chance to knock out Milwaukee come playoff time.
The first reason for this is pace. The Bucks currently lead the league in pace, playing an up and down style that regularly blitzes teams. But what if I told you this style of play is a negative for the NBA playoffs.
Of the last five NBA champions, their average playoff pace is 95.44, a startling difference not only from the Buck’s 104.9 but also the rest of the NBA as Charlotte currently owns the league’s slowest pace at 96.3.
What does this all mean?
Come playoff time the sport slows way down and becomes much more of a half-court game, neutralizing what the Buck’s arguably do best. Take last year’s Raptors as an example as their pace in the first 82 games was 100 but dropped to 96 for the playoffs. If the Bucks are going to win a title, their style of play will likely have to significantly change.
This is where the Miami Heat come into play.
The Heat already run one of the slowest paces at 98.3, essentially, they are built for slow physical playoff basketball. Don’t believe me? Their offensive rating is a fantastic 112.9 playing mostly a half-court brand of basketball.
They do this by relying on the three-point shot, second in the league in percentage and seventh in makes. This brand of basketball matches perfectly with the Bucks defence.
Although Milwaukee is having one of the great defensive season in NBA history, it’s because they are using their personnel to play the numbers.
Having elite rim protectors like Giannis and Brook Lopez on the floor at all times makes them virtually impossible to score on in the paint. They know you know this so it allows them to eliminate the paint and ideally force you to burp up a bunch of threes you don’t necessarily want to take.
Unless you do want to take them.
At least, the Heat do. With a lineup of shooters across the board including Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Herro, the Heat are built to play this kind of offence and it shows in their games versus Milwaukee.
In the first game they made 16 threes while in the second game last night, they made 18. Milwaukee forces the Heat to take the shots they already want and the results show it.
All of this is ignoring the big elephant in the room of the Heat’s famous zone defence. When they run their zone the way they want, it creates a unit that eliminates a certain Greek guy’s driving lane. Last year Toronto put Kawhi Leonard on Giannis and funneled him into massive Marc Gasol, forcing Giannis to trust his teammates to make shots. They didn’t.
Miami is built to do the exact same thing and force the likes of Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and George Hill to make the shots they’ve never made. Can they, absolutely. Will they, who knows.
I wouldn’t pick the Heat to win the series, the Bucks have been too good this year to not earn my respect. That being said, I’m pretty sure Milwaukee wouldn’t be mad if the Heat ended up not facing them in the playoffs because it’s abundantly clear that last night wasn’t a random regular season result.
It was a blueprint for why the Heat are built to play the Milwaukee Bucks.