NBA

'It's going to be tough' – Butler and the Heat prepared for Bucks battle

By Sports Desk April 15, 2023

The Miami Heat are prepared for a war against the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks after defeating the Chicago Bulls 102-91 in Friday's play-in tournament.

Max Strus got Miami off to a great start with 23 points in the first half, draining six triples, before Jimmy Butler led a 15-1 run to close out the game and earn the Heat's fourth consecutive postseason appearance.

Strus and Butler finished with 31 points each, and while starting center Bam Adebayo scored just eight points on one-of-nine shooting, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra credited his big man with the result.

Adebayo grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds – eight more than any other player – while also chipping in four assists, a block and a steal.

"None of this is happening if Bam wasn't so electric defensively," Spoelstra said. "He really was traffic-copping everything that they were doing, he seemed to be in three places at once at all times.

"He had 17 rebounds, and I thought it was fitting that he got the block at the end. Chicago are a tough team, they really defend. It's not like you're going to generate a bunch of easy opportunities at the rim to be able to get into good rhythm as a basketball team.

"They're well-schooled, well-drilled, well-coached, and they're committed on that side of the floor, so we had to win this one in the mud."

Adebayo felt he was doing everything he could outside of scoring the ball to help his side win.

"The game isn't only depending on shots falling," he said. "I feel like I had a big impact on that game even though my shots weren't falling."

Looking forward to a matchup against two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the top-seeded Bucks, Butler acknowledged they have a tall task waiting in the wings.

"You're talking about an MVP in [Antetokounmpo], all the shooting, how together they are, they've been together for a while," Butler said. "It's going to be tough; it is. 

"Milwaukee have some great fans that are always showing up and showing out. So, we've got to play damn near perfect basketball, which we're capable of. 

"Play hard, stick together through the good, through the bad. We are one and I think we're going to be okay. Let this season go, let the play-in go. 0-0 and get to work."

Spoelstra added: "We have great respect for them, but we feel like we're Navy SEALs. Just drop us off, we'll parachute in, and let's go compete."

Related items

  • NBA: Doncic's late 3-pointer gives Mavericks 2-0 lead NBA: Doncic's late 3-pointer gives Mavericks 2-0 lead

    Luka Dončić drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3 seconds remaining and finished with a triple-double as the Dallas Mavericks rallied for a 109-108 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves and a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals on Friday night.

    Doncic had 32 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds for his eighth triple-double in 42 career playoff games for the Mavericks, who erased a 16-point deficit midway through the third quarter.

    After winning two on the road, the Mavericks look to take a commanding 3-0 lead as the series shifts to Dallas on Sunday night.

    Naz Reid scored 23 points with seven 3-pointers, but his last shot at the buzzer rimmed out as the Timberwolves endured another off night from stars Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns. Edwards had 21 points on 5-of-17 shooting and Towns scored 15 on 4 of 16 from the field.

    Jaden McDaniels, who had 20-plus points in each of Minnesota’s last three games, didn’t make a basket until midway through the third. He finished with two points on 1-of-6 shooting.

    Kyrie Irving scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3 from the corner with 65 seconds left that drew Dallas within 108-106.

    Minnesota committed two turnovers, the last one by Edwards, who recklessly threw the ball out of bounds off a drive with 13 seconds to go.

    Doncic took the inbounds pass and dribbled to set up a screen for Dereck Lively II that triggered a switch by the Wolves. Rudy Gobert covered Doncic, but the Mavs superstar sank the 3 and then flexed his arms and yelled at the stunned crowd as his teammates mobbed him.

    The Wolves pushed their lead to 68-52 on Mike Conley’s free throw with 9:07 left in the third quarter, but Dallas scored eight straight points and was within 79-77 on Irving’s basket with 1:22 to play in the quarter.

  • Confidence will not get the job done for the Celtics, warns Mazzulla Confidence will not get the job done for the Celtics, warns Mazzulla

    Joe Mazzulla warned the Boston Celtics that the confidence garnered from taking a 2-0 series lead against the Indiana Pacers is not enough to secure progress.

    The Celtics won 126-110 on Thursday to move two games ahead in their Eastern Conference finals series against the Pacers.

    Indiana were also dealt a blow when star player Tyrese Haliburton suffered a hamstring injury, which the Pacers will wait agonisingly on.

    Yet with the Pacers having overturned a deficit to overcome the New York Knicks in the last round, Celtics coach Mazzulla knows the job is nowhere near done.

    "The only thing we should be thinking about is, they were down 2-0 a series Tago and brought it to Game 7," Mazzulla said.

    "They do a great job protecting their home court. They're undefeated at home. It's going to take a lot more than confidence to get the job done.

    "We have to focus on the details and the execution and the mindset, the things that go into playing against a team like this at home.

    "I know they're going to respond so it's up to us to do the same."

    Jaylen Brown starred again for the Celtics, finishing with 40 points on the day he missed out on an All-NBA selection.

    "We're two games from the Finals," he said when asked about that snub. "So, honestly, I don't have the time to give a f***."

    Indiana, meanwhile, face the prospect of having to fight back against the NBA's best team without their key player.

    "He does so many things for our team," T.J McConnell said of Haliburton.

    "I think everyone has to move the ball more, get in the paint more. The ball movement has to be at another level. He gets 10 assists in his sleep, so it's hard for another person on our team to replicate that. It's a group effort when he goes down."

    Pacers coach Rick Carlisle added: "We'll know more [on Friday] and then probably more Saturday."

  • Bickerstaff departs Cavs after four years in charge Bickerstaff departs Cavs after four years in charge

    J.B. Bickerstaff has been dismissed by the Cleveland Cavaliers after four years in charge of the Eastern Conference side.

    Bickerstaff guided the Cavs to the playoffs in successive seasons, including their first Eastern Conference semifinals appearance since 2018 this term. There, they were beaten by the top seeds in the Boston Celtics.

    The 45-year-old posted a regular season record of 170-159, with the youthful Cleveland winning at least 44 times in each of their last three campaigns.

    Koby Altman, the Cavaliers' President of Basketball Operations, paid tribute to the outgoing coach as he revealed the franchise were seeking a change in direction.

    "J.B. is a well-respected NBA coach and an incredible human being," Altman said.

    "Over the past four years, he helped establish a culture that progressively drove players to become the best versions of themselves. Decisions like these are never easy, particularly when you look back at where this franchise rebuild started under his leadership.

    "The NBA is a unique business that sometimes requires aggressive risk-taking to move a franchise forward and ultimately compete for championships. We owe a ton of gratitude for everything J.B. has contributed to the Cavaliers and his engagement in the Cleveland community."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.