A number one vs number eight seed is never the fairest of fights, but it’s hard to think of a more unbalanced matchup than the Miami Heat, the NBA champions with LeBron James and a very impressive supporting cast that includes Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade against a Milwaukee Bucks team that is the only one in the postseason with a below .500 record.
The Bucks have beaten the Heat once this season, but it’s hard to think of that as any sort of indicator for the series and the opening game. The Heat seemed to cruise through the first half of the season before the final 41 games, winning 38 of 41 matches and ripping through the entire league, showing that when they’re focused and synced, there’s not a team on the planet that can match up with them. The Bucks tried, but usually lost in double digits.
But what do Milwaukee have to show? Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis make an exciting backcourt duo, with plenty of shots and low percentages, averaging a combined 36.7 points and 12.5 assists per game. While that’s not too bad, Ellis usually crumbles against the Heat, who focus on just one of them, allowing him only 9.3 points per game this season.
There’s Ersan Ilyasova and his three point shooting, but it seems he has taken a step back this season when it comes to his overall game and isn’t entering the series as 100% healthy player. Larry Sanders is one of the best defensive big men in the NBA, showing signs of being a taller version of Ben Wallace, but it doesn’t help the Bucks find a way to score points against a Heat defense that usually takes it up a notch in the postseason and in big games.
One interesting stat to bolster the Heat’s chances of making their way into the semifinal – they finished with the 3rd-best win percentage by a defending NBA champion in league history, trailing only 2 of Michael Jordan’s Bulls’ teams from the 1990s and ahead of 2 of Bill Russell’s Celtics’ teams from the 1960s. Each of those 4 other teams with went on to defend the title successfully.
Predictions – Not really a question. Even if Dwyane Wade and others aren’t all that healthy, LeBron James on his own in a good game is enough to silence the visitors.