Bucks bury Heat with 3s, 144-97

By Ira Winderman
South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS

The Miami Heat’s wretched start to Tuesday night’s 144-97 humiliation at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks at AmericanAirlines Arena could be summed up thusly:

At one point early in the second period, when the Heat’s deficit had dipped into the 30s, Antetokounmpo had more points than the Heat’s Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic.

As in Thanasis Antetokounmpo.

As in getting beat by any available Antetokounmpo.

Oh, Giannis Antetokounmpo had his moments before taking a tumble in the third period, with the two-time defending NBA Most Valuable Player closing with nine points, six assists and six rebounds in 24 minutes, but this was more about what the Heat weren’t than what Milwaukee was.

Without sidelined forward Jimmy Butler, who sat out with a sprained right ankle, and with Andre Iguodala given the night off for rest, the Heat got off on a turnover-plagued foot and never found their stride, save, perhaps, for Tyler Herro, with the Milwaukee-area native leading the Heat with 23 points.

Ultimately, it was a 3-for-all for the Bucks, setting an NBA record for 3-point conversions, with 29, breaking the record of 27 set by the Houston Rockets in April 2019. The 144 points were four shy of the most ever against the Heat, with the result tying for the second most-lopsided loss in franchise history.

The good news? The Heat get an immediate opportunity to regain their stride with another home game Wednesday.

The not so good news? The game again will be against the Bucks.

With Milwaukee coming off a humbling Sunday loss in New York, the Heat had an opponent with more on its mind than being eliminated by the Heat in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.

So the Bucks had themselves a moment at the outset, leaving the Heat dazed and eventually thinking about their own settling of scores Wednesday.

Milwaukee led 83-51 at halftime, the most points ever yielded by the Heat in a first half, and then 115-75 going into the fourth quarter.

The Bucks got 24 points from Jrue Holiday and 17 from Khris Middleton. Adebayo closed with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Five Degrees of Heat from Tuesday’s game:

1. Lost at start: The Bucks pushed to a 12-0 lead at the outset, fueled by five quick Heat turnovers, led by 24 less than 10 minutes in, and closed the quarter up 46-26.

As a matter of perspective, the Bucks scored 45 points in the first half of their previous game, Sunday’s loss in New York.

The Bucks’ eight first-quarter steals already were a season high.

The Heat’s defense was so bad (and the Bucks’ 8-of-12 3-point shooting so good), that the Heat stood with that 20-point deficit entering the second quarter despite shooting .588 from the field in the first quarter.

2. Herro ball: Need a silver lining?

With 20 points in the first half, Herro become the 26th player in the Heat’s 33 seasons to score 20 or more in a first half.

Herro shot 8 of 12 over the opening two periods, with only one of the Heat’s 13 first-half turnovers.

His night also included a team-high seven assists.

3. Butler out: Butler was sidelined by the ankle sprain sustained in last Wednesday’s season-opening loss to the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center. He then sat out the second half of Friday’s victory over the visiting New Orleans Pelicans.

Not even the intervening three days off were enough to get Butler back, with the presumption he also will, at minimum, miss Wednesday’s rematch against the Bucks. The Heat then next play Friday in Dallas, before two more days off.

Spoelstra said the approach would be day-by-day.

“I don’t want to get into percentages,” he said. “We’ll continue to re-evaluate him every day.”

4. Limited attendance: Tuesday marked the first time this season the Heat have played in front of spectators at AmericanAirlines Arena, with approximately 100 friends and family members of players and those in basketball operations in attendance.

The Heat had no spectators for their lone preseason home game or last Friday’s home opener against the Pelicans.

Spoelstra had his wife in attendance.

“We’ve been planning on this for a long time,” Spoelstra said of spectators joining the process. “We just want to make sure that we get all of the protocols right, and the health and safety is still the priority. We think we know we can do this in a safe way. It’s great to have some of our loved ones in the stands.”

The Heat have not announced plans to open seating to the public.

5. Do it again: The pandemic-altered schedule means running it back Wednesday, in what will be the Bucks’ final visit of the season.

“I guess it’s just a really small, mini version of the playoffs, when you start playing a team back-to-back and multiple times,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, whose team lost 4-1 to the Heat in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.

“I think as a league, we’re obviously doing it for health and safety protocols. As players and coaches, it’ll be good for us to kind of see how it goes.”

The Miami Heat's Kendrick Nunn (25) blocks a dunk attempt by the Milwaukee Bucks' Jordan Nwora (13) during the fourth quarter at American Airlines Arena in Miami on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020.