Middleton stepped up big time
With Giannis Antetokounmpo not playing after leaving early in the second quarter due to an ankle injury, someone on the Bucks had to step up. Khris Middleton was on the job. Middleton has had his struggles this postseason, especially in the opening round against Orlando, and there’s a segment of the fan base which is not happy with his contract. But it’d be hard to find fault with him in Game 4. He nearly single-handedly kept Milwaukee in the game in the third quarter. In the fourth, Miami tightened the defense up – concentrating on stopping Middleton – and it worked. But in overtime, Middleton was not to be denied. He scored nine of the Bucks’ 11 points, including two free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining to all but ice the game. He finished with 36 points (his highest in the bubble), eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals. The Bucks, obviously, need more of this.
No, the Bucks aren’t better without Giannis
We aren’t certain of much in this world but we’re pretty confident that Monday you’ll hear some talking head clown on a TV debate show or sports radio say Milwaukee was better off without Giannis Antetokounmpo on the court. Let’s just nip this in the bud right here and right now: That’s pure rubbish. Antetokounmpo is clearly hobbled and his status for the rest of the series, or how much he can play, is obviously up in the air. But he’s a (likely) two-time MVP and the Defensive Player of the Year. Let’s not forget he had 19 points in his 11 minutes, during a time when no one else on the Bucks couldn’t do much of anything. Without Giannis, Miami is running away with this thing early. OK, let’s just move on.
Minutes no longer an issue
There was a lot of criticism after Game 3 as it was perceived Milwaukee’s starters should have received more playing time. In Game 4, Middleton saw 47 minutes on the floor, Brook Lopez 41 and Eric Bledsoe 39. George Hill, not a starter, had 36. Hopefully this is a story angle we won’t hear about again.
DiVincenzo remains a spark
Missed free-throw attempt late in the fourth quarter aside, Donte DiVincenzo is earning more playing time and getting it. He’s a more-than-solid defender and maybe is finding his shot again (4-of-7 shooting in Game 4). We probably shouldn’t read too much into box score plus/minus (a team’s scoring margin when a player is on the court), but DiVincenzo was a game-high plus-22 in Game 4 (Eric Bledsoe was second highest at +13).
3-point shooting remains an issue
The Bucks are losing the 3-point battle and that trended continued in Game 4. Milwaukee’s defense is, dumbing it down, predicated more on stopping 2-point shots and making you beat it with 3s. Miami has been doing just that. In Game 4, the Heat made 17 3s – their third straight game with 17+. However, they shot “just” 36.2% from deep, their lowest percentage in the series. The Bucks, somehow, need to keep Miami more at bay from behind the arc. Meanwhile, Milwaukee isn’t exactly lighting it up from downtown. In Game 4 the Bucks were 11-for-35 on 3-point shooting, or 31.4%. In Game 2 and 3 Milwaukee was 7-for-25 (28.0%) and 11-for-37 (29.7%). If the Bucks want to keep winning – beyond a return of Giannis and Middleton playing out of his mind – doing better from behind the line would go a long way in helping that cause.
Middleton stepped up big time