Jimmy Butler is averaging 13.5 points in two playoff games this year.
Bam Adebayo is averaging 12.5 points.
If the host Miami Heat are to win Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night, Butler and Adebayo likely have to do more. Much more.
Butler did not disagree with that premise.
“We know what we have to do,” Butler said. “Sometimes we get a little lost in getting everyone else involved. I think at times, you’ve got to just go, myself especially.”
Butler averaged a team-high 21.5 points during the regular season. Adebayo was second in scoring (18.7). Combined, Butler and Adebayo are averaging a combined 14.2 points under their regular-season numbers.
In contrast, the Bucks, who lead the best-of-seven series 2-0, have had no problems at the top of their depth chart as their two best players have played like stars. Two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 28.5 points, 15.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.0 steals in this series, and two-time All-Star Khris Middleton is scoring 22.0 points per game.
In Miami’s 33-year history as an NBA franchise, the Heat have come back to win a series after trailing 2-0 just once — in the 2006 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
Last year, the Heat trailed just once in any series, losing 4-2 to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Meanwhile, the Bucks, who went 20-16 on the road this season as opposed to 26-10 at home, now get to test their skills on Miami’s court. The Heat, 21-15 at home, weren’t dominant in Miami this season, although 17,000 fans are expected on Thursday, which would make it the Heat’s largest and likely most electric crowd of the season.
Milwaukee has shown in this series it can win a close game and a blowout. The Bucks won Saturday’s opener 109-107 on Middleton’s closely contested jumper with 0.5 seconds left in overtime, and Milwaukee routed the Heat 132-98 in Monday’s shocking demolition.
After getting beaten by the Heat in the franchises’ only two playoff meetings — in the first round in 2013 and in the second round last year — the Bucks seem to be a more determined team this time around.
“We have trust in each other,” Middleton said of his teammates.
Antetokounmpo hasn’t been shy this series, putting up a total of 50 shots in the two games, making 22. He is also 1-for-10 on three-pointers and 12-for-20 on free throws.
“I’m going to be aggressive the whole series, make or miss,” Antetokounmpo said.
The Bucks have not only gained a 2-0 series lead, they have also flipped the pressure — at least for now.
Heat guard Goran Dragic admitted as much when he said this when Milwaukee was at home: “The pressure was all on them. They (needed) to win at home.”
Now, of course, the onus is on the Heat, a franchise with championship lineage. After the 34-point thrashing Miami took on Monday, some in the Heat community are fearing a four-game sweep — just one year after reaching the NBA Finals.
But Adebayo said “pep talks” are not necessary.
“We’re grown men,” he said. “We know what we’ve got to do.”
–Field Level Media