The always frenetic NBA trade deadline passed yesterday afternoon with the Bucks standing pat. Outside of the earlier move to trade Rashad Vaughn and a second round pick to Brooklyn for Tyler Zeller, Milwaukee chose to move forward with the current in form squad.
The Bucks have won 7 of 8 since firing Jason Kidd and just added Jabari Parker last week as their deadline addition. However, to keep the run of good form going, they will need to reverse their recent results against a Miami team that is suddenly struggling in their own right. The Bucks and Heat met on two occasions in January, with Miami winning both contests. Since the last meeting, the Heat hold a record of 3-8, while the Bucks have gone 8-3.
Milwaukee will continue to navigate through injury issues with their backcourt, as Malcolm Brogdon (quad) and Matthew Dellavedova (ankle) are out with long term injuries. It appeared the Bucks may attempt to add some guard depth via trade before the deadline, but in not doing so, they will back Eric Bledsoe to carry the bulk of the load.
The Bucks have taken advantage of a light schedule of late, and the Heat will present a huge challenge for a Milwaukee team full of confidence. The Bucks will be desperate to do a better job of shooting the ball if they are to reverse their fortunes against Miami. Over both contests the Bucks have shot 14-52 (27%) from three with Khris Middleton (4-16), and Eric Bledsoe (0-12) the main culprits.
Miami did make a move at the deadline, welcoming back franchise legend, Dwyane Wade from Cleveland. After spending forgettable stints in Chicago and Cleveland, Wade returns home to finish of a Hall of Fame career in South Beach. In a goodwill deal between the two teams, a 2024 protected second round pick was all that was required to get the deal done. Wade is already in Miami and a expected to suit up tonight.
With just two games separating the teams in the standings, it’s yet another important game in the race for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference. Miami struck the first two blows in the season series, and now it’s time to see if the change in coach can alter the results for the Bucks. After going down by 18 points the first time they visited the American Airlines Arena, it’s going to take a major improvement across the board to get the win.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Hinder Hassan: In the lead up to the trade deadline, the Bucks were rumoured to be one of the teams looking to trade for Miami big man, Hassan Whiteside. It should probably come as no surprise that the Bucks were looking for an upgrade at the center position given their struggles defensively and on the glass this season. Whiteside has cause the Bucks all sorts of issues in the first two games averaging 21 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks per game. The Bucks added Zeller at the deadline and he will join John Henson and Thon Maker in attempting to stop one of the games best rebounders and shot blockers. If they can nullify Whiteside’s impact, they’ll be in good shape.
- Giannis Heating Up: Giannis Antetokounmpo playing a below par game by his standards has been a rare occurrence, as he has continued to surge into MVP calculations. Miami have found a way to somewhat nullify his impact however. Shooting 12-27 from the field across the two games, Giannis has struggled to have his usual influence at the rim. This is largely due to Whiteside’s presence and the fact the Bucks shooters have been ice cold. If Giannis can find a way to get into the paint and get good looks, then the Bucks will see their offense bearing far greater results then it has.
- Finding The Range: As mentioned above the Bucks three point shooting has been horrendous against Miami so far. Key players in Middleton and Bledsoe need to be better then they have been. Bledsoe in particular should not be shooting 6 attempts per game, let alone missing them all. He is jacking up five threes a game this season and only connecting on 31 percent of those tries. If Middleton, Sterling Brown, Tony Snell and Sean Kilpatrick can find and take advantage of good looks, it will open all kinds of avenues that haven’t been available in the previous encounters.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus