The Miami Heat have been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2019-20 NBA season. Despite tempered preseason expectations and a relatively inexperienced roster, Miami climbed all the way up to the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. It also boasted one of the better home records (27-5) in the entire league. Their play inside the Disney bubble only improved as they swept the higher-seeded Indiana Pacers in the first round of the postseason. Now, they’ll be tasked with toppling the top seed in the East in the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The stakes are especially high for the Bucks in Orlando. After having the best record in the league for two consecutive seasons — and a potential back-to-back NBA MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo — anything short of an NBA Finals berth would be considered a disappointment. Even then, there’s still some that would view anything short of winning the Finals an unsuccessful season for Milwaukee. Its playoff push got off to a solid start so far, as they were able to eliminate the Orlando Magic in five games in the first round. However, things will only get tougher moving forward as they now move on to face a Heat significantly tougher than the Magic.

The Heat won two out of three meetings between the teams during the regular season, though the Bucks won the most recent meeting in early August in Orlando. Here’s a look at the full schedule and three things to know about the second-round series between the Bucks and Heat. 

(1) Bucks vs. (5) Heat

All times Eastern

Game 1: Monday, Aug. 31, 6:30 p.m. I TNT
Game 2: Wednesday, Sept. 2, 6:30 p.m. | ESPN
Game 3: Friday, Sept. 4, TBD | TBD
Game 4: Sunday, Sept. 6, TBD | TBD
Game 5: Tuesday, Sept. 8, TBD | TBD*
Game 6: Thursday, Sept. 10, TBD | TBD*
Game 7: Sunday, Sept. 12 TBD | TBD*

*If necessary 

1. Heat have options for guarding Giannis

There’s no such thing as completely stopping Antetokounmpo, but when it comes to guarding him the Heat have several options that could make like difficult for the reigning NBA MVP. It begins with Bam Adebayo, who is one of the few players across the league’s landscape that has the combined size and athleticism to consistently bother Antetokounmpo. In fact, Adebayo was the league’s most effective defender during the regular season when it came to guarding Giannis, based on his true shooting percentage. 

How well Adebayo is able to do on Antetokounmpo will likely go a long way toward determining the outcome of the series. It won’t be all up to Adebayo, though, as the Heat will likely cycle several defenders onto Antetokounmpo over the course of the series. Veteran forward Andre Iguodala, who made a name for himself as one of the league’s top defenders during his run with the Golden State Warriors, will likely see some time on Antetokounmpo, as will fellow veteran forward Jae Crowder and the hard-nosed Jimmy Butler, who never met a defensive matchup that he didn’t think he could handle. Again, none of these players are individually going to stop Antetokounmpo, but having multiple bodies to throw at him throughout the series will be beneficial. Having multiple defensive options will help in the case of foul trouble, and it will also work to keep Antetokounmpo on his toes and in turn potentially prevent him from growing too comfortable against any one matchup. 

2. Who will help Giannis carry the scoring load for the Bucks? 

When it comes to the Bucks, a major question facing the team during the postseason is where the ancillary scoring is going to come from. Antetokounmpo is obviously the main threat on the offensive end for the Bucks, and he’s going to get his, but who else is going to step up for the Bucks? Miami is an excellent defensive team, and will everything possible to make life difficult for Antetokounmpo and limit his effectiveness, and at that point the Bucks will need others to step up. 

While Antetokounmpo averaged 30 points per game during Milwaukee’s first-round series win over Orlando, the team’s second-highest scorer in the series, Khris Middleton, averaged just 15 points per performance — five fewer points per game than his regular-season average. Similarly, guard Eric Bledsoe averaged just 11.6 points per game against the Magic, also less than the 14.6 points per game that he averaged during the regular season. While players often step up their production in the postseason, the opposite occurred for key contributors for the Bucks in the first round. They will need that to change if they hope to make a second consecutive trip to the Eastern Conference finals. 

3. Miami far from satisfied with second-round berth

For some teams, making it to the second round of the playoffs would be considered a successful season, but that isn’t the case for the Heat. Miami certainly surpassed expectations this season, but it’s far from satisfied. This is an organization with a championship pedigree, led by a head coach in Erik Spoelstra with a championship pedigree — they’re looking for more. In fact, Jimmy Butler is not only confident that the Heat can advance past the Bucks, but he’s of the belief that the Heat could leave Orlando with the title.  

“We can win this,” Butler said about the Heat at the onset of postseason play. “The thing about myself is I don’t give a damn what anybody says and I think I can speak for my teammates when I say they don’t give a damn either.” 

For Butler, this series represents an opportunity to advance deeper into the postseason than he ever has before. Butler has 59 playoff appearances under his belt, but he has never advanced past the semifinals. It’s safe to say that he will be motivated to do just that. Overall, the Heat are deep, they’re well coached and they play hard on both ends of the floor. That’s a recipe for postseason success. The Bucks might be the more talented team on paper, but the Heat aren’t the type of team to roll over. This will be a hard-fought series, and whoever ultimately comes out on top will have earned their trip to the conference finals. 

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