The Miami Heat caught fire from deep and raced out to a 63-40 second-quarter lead, threatening to send the Bucks to a second-straight bubble loss, this time at full strength.
Bucks clinch No. 1 seed
But as is so often the case in the NBA, a 20-plus point lead against an elite team was not safe. The Bucks rallied with a huge second half to roll the Heat, 130-116 and clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
They staved off headlines speculating about bubble problems for the East’s best team in the process.
Presumed league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks with 33 points along with 12 rebounds and four assists. He missed all four of this 3-point attempts but connected on each of his 13 field goal attempts inside the arc.
He highlighted a 38-11 fourth-quarter run with a span of three dunks in four Bucks possessions, including this nifty spin move past Bam Adebayo:
Bucks assert dominance after halftime
Khris Middleton joined Antetokounmpo in contributing 33 points along with eight assists and six rebounds. The Bucks’ 74-43 outburst in the second half was a prime example of the combined offensive firepower and defensive prowess that makes them a favorite to win a championship.
After the Heat shot 13-of-24 (54 percent) from 3-point distance in the first half, they cooled off considerably to an 8-of-22 performance (36.3 percent) in the second. They didn’t find much offense otherwise, scoring just 19 points inside the arc after halftime.
Sharpshooters Duncan Robinson (21 points, 5-of-9 from 3-point distance) and Tyler Herro (20 points) led the way for Miami, but had no answers for the second-half onslaught wrought by Milwaukee while playing without Jimmy Butler or Goran Dragic.
The Bucks improve to 55-14 with the win, five games better than the second-place Toronto Raptors with four games remaining before the playoffs.
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