There was no raucous celebration. No histrionics, no big on-court party when the final horn sounded and Milwaukee had officially vanquished its playoff loss to Miami from last season.
Put simply, the Bucks expected to win.
And the last four games showed exactly why.
The Bucks-Heat rematch was a mismatch, and Milwaukee became the first team to advance in this season’s playoffs by beating Miami 120-103 on Saturday to complete a 4-0 first-round sweep. Brook Lopez scored 25 points, Bryn Forbes scored 22 and Giannis Antetokounmpo had a triple-double – 20 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists – for Milwaukee.
“Obviously, it’s a great moment for us and winning 4-0, beating the team that beat us last year, feels good,” Antetokounmpo said. “But at the end of the day, we’ve got a long way to go.”
Khris Middleton had 20, Bobby Portis 13 and Jrue Holiday 11 for Milwaukee, which outscored Miami by 24 in the second half.
Bam Adebayo scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for Miami, which got 18 points from Kendrick Nunn, 14 from Tyler Herro, 13 from Goran Dragic and a triple-double – 12 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists – from Jimmy Butler.
“We tip our hat to the Bucks’ organization,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They were a great team last year and they improved on that. Whether we were a part of that improvement or not, it’s irrelevant. They took their game collectively to another level. They beat us for a reason.”
The Heat became the second team in this playoff format to go from sweeping in the first round one year to being swept in the first round the next. The only other team to endure that was the then-New Jersey Nets, who swept New York in 2004 and lost 4-0 to Miami in 2005.
Once Milwaukee grabbed the first three games, history said the result was inevitable. NBA teams with 3-0 series leads are now 141-0 all-time in those matchups, with these Bucks becoming the 88th of those teams to finish off matters with a sweep.
Their reward: a week off, at least.
The third-seeded Bucks won’t play again until at least next Saturday. Their East semifinals series against either second-seeded Brooklyn or seventh-seeded Boston will start on 5 June if the Nets advance in five games; in any other scenario, the Bucks will next play on 7 June.
“We’ve got a long ways to go,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It’s the first round of the playoffs. I think there’s got to be humility, a humbleness, an attitude or a mindset to get better. We’ve advanced in the first round. Whoever we play next, we’ve got to have the similar focus, a similar edge, willingness to play with each other, play together, all the things that we just did. Means nothing if we don’t keep doing it going forward.”
After a pair of Milwaukee romps by a combined 63 points in Games 2 and 3, this one immediately took on a different feel.
The Heat – who led 9-2 shortly after the start of Game 1 and hadn’t enjoyed even that much of a margin in the last 136 minutes and 8 seconds of basketball leading into the start of Game 4 – got the early jump. A pair of free throws by Duncan Robinson with 3:48 left in the opening quarter put Miami up 20-12, its biggest lead of the series, and the Heat margin would eventually grow to as much as 12 in the first half.