It was a back-and-forth finish at the Bradley Center on Wednesday night, but the Bucks were able to scrape away a victory from the Heat, 114-108.
Momentum began to slide Miami’s way at the tail end of the third quarter, as they embarked on a 21-8 run, boosting their lead to 85-80. They outscored the Bucks 31-23 in the period.
Things would be nip and tuck throughout the final quarter, with blows being exchanged left and right by the two teams. The Bucks were getting key contributions from their bench as the duo of Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee played vital roles in the victory. Ennis contributed with eight points, including a baseline three-pointer. Plumlee finished with 18 points.
Jason Kidd praised Plumlee’s contribution off the bench.
“He played hard and helped his teammates defensively and offensively, especially in the first half,” Kidd said. “For a young team understanding it’s not always about starting but maybe finishing.”
Plumlee himself discussed the mentality he had coming off the bench and making an impact on things.
“You always want to be in the right spots, but you want to come in and be a spark,” Plumlee said. “[You have] to try to do something to get the team going.”
Clutch play was the theme down the stretch for Milwaukee, as they would bend but not break as Miami constantly answered Milwaukee baskets with their own. The final seven minutes and change saw a game that never had a deficit larger than five points until there were less than 25 seconds remaining in the game.
Foul trouble played huge to the Bucks advantage, as Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside would both have five fouls with more than four minutes remaining in the game.
Despite the foul trouble, Miami would not stop bugging the Bucks, narrowing the Milwaukee lead to three or less numerous times down the stretch. A Jerryd Bayless three-pointer at the 3:40 mark extended the Bucks lead to 103-98, and then a pair of free throws from Parker cushioned the lead to seven.
However, the resilience from the Heat turned things into a nail-biter. On the ensuing possession, a Whiteside hook shot narrowed the deficit to five. Following a Bucks timeout, Whiteside scored on a dunk down low to cut the lead to just three.
The Bucks had trouble containing Whiteside in the paint on both ends of the floor, as his 23 points lead the Heat. He also had major contributions on the defensive end, swatting three shots on the night, paired with a game-high 13 rebounds. It was Whiteside’s 28th double-double of the season.
Miami would get a chance to tie things up at the 57.5 second mark when an out-of-bounds call was reversed to them. However, they were unable to take advantage, as a Joe Johnson miss turned the ball over to Milwaukee and translated into a Khris Middleton floater with 27 seconds remaining and a five-point Bucks lead.
Miami would not get any closer than four points in the final 27 seconds, as a dunk from Jabari Parker off an in-bounds pass and a pair of Middleton free throws with 6.8 seconds iced things, 114-108.
Jason Kidd attributed his team’s ability to control the ball down the stretch as reason they were able to escape with a victory.
“I thought in the fourth quarter we took care of the ball,” Kidd noted. “Reviewing stuff in shootaround and in practice of the mistakes we’ve made in the past, it has helped us and that showed tonight.”
Leading the Bucks with 24 points was Giannis Antetokounmpo. He also tallied seven total rebounds along with six assists. Antetokounmpo is the only NBA player averaging 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists since the All-Star break.
The other components of the trio, Parker and Middleton, also contributed heavily in the victory. Parker scored 23 points, which is the sixth time he’s reached the 20+ point plateau post-All-Star break. Middleton mixed in 22 points, adding on to his streak of being one of eight NBA players that are currently averaging 18+ points and who have appeared in all of their team’s games this season.
The Bucks now have a back-to-back stretch of games beginning Saturday against New Orleans and then a trip to Brooklyn the following day. Milwaukee returns home for two games against Toronto on March 13 and Memphis on March 17.