The Miami Heat fell to the Milwaukee Bucks 116-130 despite leading by 23 points at one point in what was a highly competitive Eastern Conference clash, for the first three quarters at least.
Jimmy Butler missed his second-straight game with a foot injury while Goran Dragic, who landed awkwardly on his right ankle in the dying moments of the Heat’s win over Boston on Tuesday, also sat out after being listed as questionable for Thursday’s showdown.
The Bucks, meanwhile, welcomed Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton back after the pair missed all of their previous bubble games after having contracted COVID-19. Mike Budenholzer went into this one knowing his team needed just one more win to seal their status as the No.1 team in the Eastern Conference.
The Heat were the ones who came out firing on all cylinders, however, ending the first quarter with a double digit lead. Tyler Herro and Andre Iguodala provided some real energy off the bench, with the rookie scoring 16 first half points and the veteran scoring seven points and dishing out six assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo picked up a third foul early in the second quarter and saw his minutes limited as a result but still managed to log 14 points before the half was over.
Miami hotshot Duncan Robinson scored 11 points on a perfect 3/3 from beyond the arc and 2/2 from the foul line; his third three saw him pass Buddy Hield to go two No.2 for total three-point shots scored, with only James Harden having a better record.
The Heat scored 73 first-half points to end the period with a 17-point lead as Bam Adebayo hit an unlikely buzzer-beating three, just his fifth of the season, to go into halftime.
It appeared that Miami was on their way to another big win without Butler but Milwaukee went on a 20-5 run to trim the lead down to just three points, before taking their first lead with around five minutes left of the third quarter. Erik Spoelstra’s side hung on for a six-point lead going into the fourth and things appeared to take a positive turn after Antetokounmpo was whistled for his fifth foul early in the period. The Bucks lost their coach’s challenge on what was initially called an offensive foul but Adebayo suffered the same fate moments later, with Miami also losing their coach’s challenge.
Things went downhill for the Heat from there as Milwaukee went on a 20-0 scoring run to eventually claim a blowout victory. Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton combined for 66 points, scoring 33 each to cement the Bucks’ place atop the Eastern Conference for the second year running.
Miami maintained their one-game lead over the Indiana Pacers, who lost to the bubble-perfect Phoenix Suns on the day. They will take to the court against the Devin Booker-led side on Saturday evening in the hope of bouncing back from their collapse.