Milwaukee Bucks Game Preview: Feb. 8 vs Miami Heat

Nov 17, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward John Henson (31) dunks the ball past Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 17, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward John Henson (31) dunks the ball past Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks will have a shot to increase their winning streak to two games when they take on the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.

The Milwaukee Bucks have had a rough last few weeks, but after a win against the Phoenix Suns on Saturday the Bucks are now 1-0 over their last one game. Sometimes it’s important to look at the glass as half-full.

Milwaukee could double their winning streak with a win against the red-hot Miami Heat on Wednesday. There are a few big stories that go along with this game, even besides the two teams that are competing for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Khris Middleton is slated to participate in his first game of the 2016-17 NBA season against Miami, and according to Charles Gardner over at the Journal Sentinel he’s going to play around 20 minutes in a bench role.

In addition, both Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert will be available to potentially play in their first game as a Buck. Jason Kidd didn’t commit to definitely playing either of them, but said both of them should be ready just in case in that same Gardner piece.

That means there are three Bucks who could enter their first game of the season for Milwaukee on Wednesday. That unusual circumstance, combined with the Bucks having just a one-game lead on the Heat, makes for an entertaining game to watch on Wednesday.

To find out how either Miami or Milwaukee could end up victorious on Wednesday, we’ll look through major keys for both teams and highlight a member of the Heat to watch. After that it’s time for score predictions.

Jan 20, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (15) grabs the ball against the Orlando Magic during the first half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 20, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (15) grabs the ball against the Orlando Magic during the first half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Major Key For Milwaukee: Move The Ball Freely

As we’ve discussed before, the Milwaukee Bucks are a much better team when the ball moves more between individual Bucks. Milwaukee’s previous games against the Miami Heat show that, as do the Bucks season splits.

In 22 wins, Milwaukee has averaged 26.9 assists per game. In 28 losses, the Bucks have averaged 22.9 assists per game. In the two losses against Miami thus far this season, Milwaukee has totaled 20 and 17 assists.

In the lone game where the Bucks beat the Heat, the team recorded 28 assists. When Milwaukee racks up 28 or more assists, the team is 11-0. That, obviously, means the Bucks are 11-28 when they record less than 28 dimes. Yikes.

Moving the ball helps pretty much every team, but it’s been profoundly important for the Bucks this season. The burden falls to more than just Giannis Antetokounmpo and Matthew Dellavedova. The Bucks are at their best when lots of players are making the right pass.

In the one Bucks win against Miami, seven players recorded at least two assists. Players like Greg Monroe, Jason Terry and now Khris Middleton can help the ball continue to move, even after the point guard makes their first pass.

Jan 30, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) controls the ball around Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie (8) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 30, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) controls the ball around Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie (8) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Major Key For Miami: Heat Up On Offense

The Miami Heat have the 26th-ranked offense and 6th-ranked defense in the NBA, as per offensive and defensive rating. That means the Heat are better off if they can use defense to win and keep the score low, right?

Nope. Miami is utterly helpless when the team scores less than 100 points. The Heat are 4-22 in such games this season. It’s not like all of those games are big blowouts–the Heat are 4-11 in games where both teams score under 100 points.

This team has needed to score a lot to win games this season. When the Heat drop at least 104 points, Miami has a record of 17-5. While 104 isn’t exactly a ton of points by NBA standards, it’s nearly four more than the average Heat point total per game.

Much of the burden of getting to that many points has fallen on Miami’s leading scorer, Goran Dragic. Dragic is capable of going off fairly often, and although the Heat have been winning thanks to strong team play and Dion Waiters being mythical sometimes a single player needs to score.

Jan 19, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) celebrates against the Milwaukee Bucks at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 19, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) celebrates against the Milwaukee Bucks at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports

Player To Watch: Hassan Whiteside

Despite Dragic scoring more than him and Waiters having a better island than him, Hassan Whiteside is the player to watch in this game. Whiteside has gone off recently, and if he continues to do so it will be hard for the Bucks to stop him.

Over his last three games Whiteside is averaging 22.3 points, 17.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. He’s shooting a ridiculous 68.2 percent from the field in that time. Those numbers are somewhat boosted from one of those games, although Whiteside’s been good in all of them.

The Heat blew out the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday thanks to Whiteside having a career night against the Sixers. Philly was without Joel Embiid, and it showed in what Whiteside was able to do against Nerlens Noel.

Noel is a good defender, but he couldn’t handle Whiteside. The latter dropped 30 points and 20 boards all over Philly. Whiteside shot a ridiculous 82.4 percent from the field, missing just three of his 17 attempted shots. He also held Noel to just seven points.

It likely goes without saying, but if Whiteside does that to the Bucks they are doomed. John Henson has had trouble with keeping the bigger Whiteside out of the paint in the past, and he’ll need to step up and stop Miami’s big man from walking all over the Bucks on offense and on the glass.

Jan 13, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) gets pressure from Milwaukee Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon (13) in the second quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 13, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) gets pressure from Milwaukee Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon (13) in the second quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Finale

The cards are stacked against the Bucks from the get-go. Milwaukee has gotten three days of rest or more five times this season, and lost all five of those games by an average margin of more than eight points.

In addition, the Bucks enter Wednesday on a one-game winning streak. The Heat also have a winning streak–it’s just ten games longer than the one the Bucks are on! Miami has won 11 straight, with the last Heat loss coming against Milwaukee way back on January 13.

This team has to lose sometime, but it will take a strong game from the Bucks to make sure Wednesday is the time. Middleton’s return will be a nice energy booster for Milwaukee, as will the announcement of the franchise’s D-League team.

Predictions and Leaderboard:

Adam Coffman: Heat by 3 — 29-21, 581 point differential

Rohan Katti: Bucks by 8 — 29-21, 608 point differential

Lukas Harkins:  Bucks by 4 — 28-22, 572 point differential

Adam McGee: Bucks by 4 — 28-22, 652 point differential

Tim Wray: Bucks by 7 — 27-23, 577 point differential

Ti Windisch: Bucks by 6 — 27-23, 588 point differential

Tom Pheister: Bucks by 7 — 27-23, 655 point differential

Jordan Treske: Heat by 11 — 25-25, 684 point differential

The game is on Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports Wisconsin.

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