Pat Riley didn’t put off retirement in Malibu for the recruitment of Victor Oladipo.
No, this has always been about the biggest fish for the Miami Heat president, as it was in 2010, when he stole LeBron James from the Cleveland Cavaliers, and took Chris Bosh from the Toronto Raptors just for sports. Actually, not fish. He calls them whales. Or orcas.
The prize in 2021 will be soon-to-be-two-time-MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who feels a little like LeBron 2.0 – the league’s top player who may never be able to get enough stars to join him in a middling market, and has to flee to join them.
So, this series isn’t just about upstart Miami trying to upset the top-seeded Bucks; it’s about the Heat upsetting the NBA order, and showing Giannis he will have more help in tropical paradise.
Here’s how the Heat can do that, and win the series:
Muzzle (Khris) Middleton: The humble swingman made major strides this season, with statistics that stand up nicely next to the likes of more heralded All-Stars such as Paul George. But the Orlando Magic tried something against the Bucks that the Heat can employ even more effectively, since they have healthy wings – they blitzed Middleton with a second defender, to force him to make quicker decisions. He struggled at times, and would more against the switchable likes of Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala and Derrick Jones Jr. If Middleton is rendered less than himself, it not only turns this series, but also gets Giannis thinking. Is this the No. 2 that I need? Or might Butler, Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro be better?
Light up from deep: The Bucks’ defense, historically stingy during the regular season, has a Death Star quality about it. It is penetrable if you hit the right spot. In this case, the right spot is exploiting the drop technique to fire three-pointers. This is how the Heat beat the Bucks twice before the Bubble, and were wrecking them in the first half of a bubble game before wearing down without ball-handlers Butler and Goran Dragic. Milwaukee’s style is intended to get the guy they want taking the open three-pointers. But the Heat can put three or four three-point shooters on the floor, with Duncan Robinson, Wisconsin product Tyler Herro, Kelly Olynyk, and others. If one or two are hot, it’s trouble.
Fear the Dragon: Goran Dragic, back as a starter after a sterling season as a sixth man, was the best guard on either team in the Pacers series, and he’s familiar with Eric Bledsoe during their uneven time together in Milwaukee. Who do you trust more, based on their recent playoff play, and on Dragic’s exceptional international tournament work? Especially after the way Bledsoe played in the 2019 postseason?
The Better Bet:
Miami Heat in 6. The Heat aren’t the longshot they were prior, with the national media now catching on. But the payoff for taking them in the series is still significant. Take the shot.
Place your wagers at play.spreads.ca now!