Much like his basketball-starved fans, even Bam Adebayo is starting to talk up hypothetical matchups as we all hope the NBA season can find a way to finish off the 2019-20 season.
The Miami Heat center told Chris Sheridan of Forbes.com that “I am taking my team” when asked who would win a Game 7 between his Miami heat squad and the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks.
“I’m not saying they can’t beat us, but we like our chances,” Adebayo also added.
— Chris Sheridan (@sheridanhoops) May 2, 2020
Before COVID-19 put a halt on the final stretch of the NBA’s regular season, Miami was sitting in fourth place out in the Eastern Conference with a 41-24 record while Milwaukee was cruising with a 53-12 record that held the entire league. The two franchises had already met twice this season, with the Heat holding a 2-0 series lead that included an epic overtime win at Milwaukee early in the year. That’s no small victory, either, considering Miami is the only team in the NBA with a winning record against the Bucks this season.
Adebayo’s comments got me thinking… If there were to be a team that could take down the Bucks out of the East, who would it be? It’s fair – at this point – to agree that the two teams in Los Angeles are the most dangerous threats to matchup against Milwaukee in the Finals. In terms of pure talent, they have more than enough star power to limit reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo as much as possible. They have multiple stars and well-designed rosters.
And while, yes, it’s still true this Bucks team hasn’t proven they can make an extended playoff run, they are still the most dominant team in the East up to this point – by a wide margin, too.
If we take a look at the rest of the East’s top teams such as the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, the argument for Miami can become more convincing. In the first of two games in which Antetokounmpo played against Miami, he coughed up eight turnovers and fouled out in a five-point loss. In game two several months later, he recorded a season-low 13 points on just 6-18 shooting. In both outings, the Greek Freak failed to hit one shot from 3 on nine total attempts.
Miami doesn’t have an MVP-favorite superstar like an Antetokunmpo or a fancy power couple like we see out in L.A., rather, they win by committee. Adebayo and fellow teammate Jimmy Butler were both named All-Stars this past season, with the former ‘Cat making it for the first time in just his third year in the NBA. But its the complementary pieces and the unique culture that rounds out this team.
How many playoff teams have two rookies that will likely finish in the top-10 for voting in the Rookie of the Year standings? If the Memphis Grizzlies can squeak into the postseason out West, they’ll join the Heat as the only two franchises in that category. Former Wildcat Tyler Herro along with Kendrick Nunn both average over 27 minutes per game.
Duncan Robinson was in the middle of one of the NBA’s single greatest outside shooting seasons of all-time. Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala are as close to Giannis “stoppers” as most teams can get and they’ll switch back-and-forth trying to make his life hell. Goran Dragic is arguably a top 2 or 3 backup point guard in the NBA right now. Stretch big men such as Kelly Olynk and Meyers Leonard free up Miami’s plethora shooters, explaining why the team leads the NBA in three-point percentage at 38.3 percent. Derrick Jones Jr. won the Dunk Contest for crying out loud!
Okay, maybe that last one was just for me. But a fully healthy Miami Heat roster can go 10 players deep with specialists that cover every area of the game. The Raptors match up well with the Bucks, too, but could they consistently muster up enough points to give their elite defense a chance? Toronto put up an average of 101 points in two losses against Milwaukee; Miami averaged 118.
If the Miami Heat can manage to take Milwaukee to a Game 7, I’d like their chances, too. The Bucks only have 12 losses thus far and only two teams (Miami and the Denver Nuggets) have beaten them more than once. If the Heat were able to beat Milwaukee three times through six games of a playoff series, they’d be as good a bet as any to seal the deal with a fourth.
I miss you, basketball.