Going into Game 3 on Friday night, the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks had somehow found themselves on the ropes. After a wild final sequence in Game 2, which was ultimately decided at the foul line thanks to some arguably overzealous officiating, the Bucks fell into a precarious 0-2 hole to a Miami Heat team that’s been picking them apart since the series started.
That trend continued on Friday night when the Heat stunned the Bucks in Game 3 with a 115-100 victory to put Milwaukee on the brink of elimination. Here’s what we learned from Miami’s third straight victory in this second-round series as they take a commanding lead over the team that was once considered the prohibitive favorite to come out of the East.
Jimmy Butler Cannot Be Stopped
Jimmy Butler has been a nightmare for the Bucks all series. He set a playoff career high of 40 points as he led the Heat to a Game 1 victory, and he followed that up by knocking down the game-winning free-throws on Wednesday to lead Miami to a stunning 2-0 series lead.
He didn’t let up on Friday night, taking over in the second half and finishing with a game-high 30 points on 7-of-13 shooting, to go along with seven rebounds and six assists. Fourteen of those points came off free-throws as he got to line 19 times in this contest. He single-handedly outscored Milwaukee 17-13 in the fourth quarter and led an 11-1 run in the final four minutes to seal a historically-insurmountable 3-0 lead, putting the No. 1 seeded Bucks just a game away from elimination.
One. Point. Game. pic.twitter.com/OcevQMrBRe
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 5, 2020
With the win, the Heat moved to 7-0 in the postseason, behind another big night from Jimmy Buckets.
The Bucks Needed More Splash Mountain And Others
After being conspicuously quiet in Games 1 and 2, Middleton had 14 points in the first half and made two of his three three-point attempts, and it looked like he was poised to finally step up as Giannis struggled.
Midrange master. pic.twitter.com/GaO06XWKcP
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) September 4, 2020
But Middleton scored just four points in the second half as the Bucks collapsed and blew a double-digit lead going into the fourth quarter. Brook Lopez also came alive in the early going, scoring 13 points in the first half on 5-of-7 shooting, but he eventually went cold he second half, finishing with 22 points and going just 3-of-9 from behind the arc.
Milwaukee also didn’t get much from Eric Bledsoe, who scored eight points on the night on 2-of-9 shooting.
What’s Up With Giannis?
Giannis went 0-of-7 from downtown in this one, and the Miami Heat have been more than happy to oblige him in that endeavor. Despite the modest progress he’s made with his long-range shooting the past two seasons, it’s not where Giannis is at his best. He does his most damage when he’s doing things like this.
Smooth handles. pic.twitter.com/6RXPULCpqh
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) September 5, 2020
As tempting as those wide open threes might seem, he’s playing right into the Heat’s game plan. Of course, there could be another reason for that. Giannis appeared to tweak his ankle in the first half and was visibly wincing on several trips down the court. It’s the worst possible time for something like that, but Giannis somehow found another reservoir of strength to help lead a 9-0 run in the third quarter to push the Bucks’ lead back to double digits heading into the fourth quarter.
Of course, that didn’t last, and now the Bucks are in big trouble. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the postseason. The Bucks will literally have to rewrite history in order to keep their championship hopes alive when a potentially-deciding Game 4 tips off Sunday at 3:30 ET on ABC.