Forget the whistles and questionable calls. The bottom line: The scoreboard reads: 116-114, Heat. Now the Miami Heat have a 2-0 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
How we got there in the final minute ended up with too many referee whistles on questionable — and that’s putting it kindly — fouls, making for a disappointing and ugly finish. Ultimately, the game was won with Jimmy Butler standing alone at the free-throw line, 0.0 on the clock, because of a questionable touch call on a missed final shot as time expired that gave Butler the chance to win it from the line.
Butler getting that chance seemed to balance the Karmic scales, because the only reason Butler had to attempt a fade-away game-winner was a worse call on the other end. Down three with the shot clock running out in the final seconds, Khris Middleton put up a three over Goran Dragic, who had established position and was vertical. Referee Mark Davis blew the three-shot foul, but nobody else saw it (except Steve Javie in the replay booth).
That foul call on Dragic. @NBAOfficial pic.twitter.com/yUOHxhKVUr
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) September 3, 2020
The Bucks can’t blame anyone but themselves for this loss. They trailed most of the night because the defense that was best in the league in the regular season is letting them down in the playoffs. The Bucks are protecting the paint as they always have, but the Heat are one of the league’s best three-point shooting teams, and they hit 17-of-45 attempts (37.8%). All game long, whenever it felt like the Bucks were about to make a run, the Heat would drain a couple of threes and stay ahead.
Defensively, Miami has done a good job forming a wall in front of Antetokounmpo — although he scored 29 points on 18 shots anyway — and still chasing shooters off the three-point line. The Bucks were 7-of-25 from three (28%), their fewest attempts on the season.
Through it all, the Bucks fought back and were within striking distance late. In part thanks to a Butler error throwing the ball away under his own basket.
Miami, led by Butler, had the grit to get the win.
Milwaukee, the best regular-season team two years running, has some hard questions to ask and answer before Game 3 on Friday night.
Let’s hope Game 3 ends better, because Game 2… well, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne summed it up best.