There were failures all over the court on Saturday for the Miami Heat. They were there wherever you looked, if you want to go there. Bam Adebayo couldn’t buy a basket. Tyler Herro was worse, then benched. And Jimmy Butler, ahem, 4-of-22 shooting?
Yes, Duncan Robinson had a great offensive game and wasn’t just a defensive shadow, but a second skin on Kris Middleton when the Milwaukee forward hit the game-winner with five-tenths of a second left. But that wasn’t the point, Milwaukee said.
“I got to the spot I wanted,’’ Middleton said after Milwaukee’s 109-107 win in overtime.
“I hit him there,’’ guard Jrue Holiday said of passing the ball to Middleton. “Game.”
Game 1 to Milwaukee. Round 1, really, because nothing was decided here beyond Bucks got the first mother-may-I step forward. Because for all the shooting problems of some of the Heat’s big guns they lost in overtime. On the road. In a bang-bang finish.
“We got the win we wanted,’’ Middleton said.
He’s right. They did. But in the old basketball movie, “White Men Can’t Jump,” the screenwriter Ron Shelton had the line, “Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win.”
Translation: It’s all what you do with the result, where it takes you next. And now we see what these two teams do with this Game 1.
This series seems like the continuation of a good Netflix series in some manner. It was five parts — a quick five games — last year that went the Heat’s way. Season Two started Saturday. The main characters, the plot lines, the big stakes — they all remain the same as they run it back again. As do the prime questions.
Can Bam Adebayo show off the mid-range jumper he improved on? He didn’t in Game 1 in missing five of his first six shots and finishing with nine points. That allowed Milwaukee’s 7-foot Brook Lopez to sag in the lane, clogging it up, making it difficult for the Heat to get inside shots.
Next plot line: Can the Heat’s 3-point shooters carry the day? Led by the scorched-earth shooting of Robinson and Goran Dragic, the Heat heaved a franchise-record 50 3-pointers Saturday. Fifty. They made a strong 40%. They took more 3s than two-pointers.
And the prime plot: Can the Heat stop Giannis Antetokounmpo or will Giannis make the step mega-stars must? From one view, he had 26 points and 18 rebounds in Game 1. A great day, right? From another view he shot 10 of 27, made six of 13 foul shots and got beat by Butler for a runner that sent the game to overtime.
It was afterward, when a question started on Zoom that he was challenged this game, that he Heat pressed him hard, that Giannis leaned toward the camera with a small smile until the question stopped.
“Who said I was challenged?” he said.
He gave a sly smile. “You did.”
The Heat’s defense is stacked against Giannis, though it will be harder for coach Erik Spoelstra to take the lunch money of Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer again. Last year, the picket-fence defense Spoelstra set up helped make it a quick series. Milwaukee has a better cast this time.
When Holiday picked up a loose ball and went coast-to-coast for a layin to put Milwaukee up with 39 seconds left, he showed an element the Bucks didn’t have last year. He showed it again when the Heat had put up a quick shot with five-tenths of a second left in overtime. Holiday blocked Butler’s shot.
“This is why I’m here,’’ Holiday said. “I wanted to feel this moment, feel the pressure. It was a fun first game, but we’ve still got work to do.”
So Milwaukee has more this time around. They’re better. They showed it again in a strong regular season. They showed it with enough winning plays in Game 1. But neither team came out of this game feeling like anything was settled
“I feel we have a lot of talent,’’ Holiday said. “But they do, too. They have a lot of heart and we have a lot of fight.”
Sometimes the winner loses in a long series. Sometimes the loser wins. We’ll see how each team processes a Game 1 that could have gone either way. Nothing was decided except Milwaukee landed the first punch.