Middleton’s game-winning shot with half a second remaining in overtime lifted the Bucks to a 109-107 victory over the Miami Heat on Saturday afternoon.
It was the lone shot Middleton, who led the Bucks with 27 points, made in overtime in four attempts. Middleton even shook off a forearm shot to the mouth from Duncan Robinson with 4:13 left in overtime, which resulted in a flagrant foul 1.
As the teams prepare to square off again in Milwaukee in Game 2 on Monday night, Brook Lopez was quick to remind reporters that this wasn’t the first time Middleton had come through for the Bucks.
“He’s just always so level,” Lopez said. “Obviously, first game of the playoffs, everybody’s amped up. Big game. This could have been a preseason game to him. I think he would have been the same way in the moment, shooting the ball and everything.”
The Bucks, who finished tied for fourth in the NBA shooting 38.9 percent from 3-point range, shot a dismal 5-for-31 from long distance in Game 1 yet dominated the Heat in the paint 56-24.
The Heat made a postseason franchise-record 20 three-pointers, including seven from Robinson, who finished with 24 points.
Miami took 50 attempts from beyond the arc, but felt it could have shot even better in order to try to break the Bucks out of their tough interior defense.
“Some of their switching stuff, we hadn’t seen. But nothing overly surprising,” Robinson said. “There’s a lot of familiarity between these two teams.”
The Heat felt they needed to improve their mid-range game in order to counter Milwaukee’s paint-stuffing defense, which limited one of Miami’s best weapons in Bam Adebayo to only nine points on 4-for-15 shooting.
The Heat shot 16-for-49 (32.7 percent) on the rest of their shots, and Jimmy Butler also struggled, shooting 4-for-22.
“We know their game plan,” said Heat guard Goran Dragic, who led Miami in Game 1 with 25 points off its bench. “They’re going to pack the paint. Lopez is going to be in drop. He’s going to be inside. So it’s tough to score inside the paint or make lobs. I think that the biggest key for us is maybe to score more in the open floor in transition.”
The Heat defense again keyed on Giannis Antetokounmpo with double- and triple-teams much as they did in last year’s second-round series, won in five games by Miami.
But Antetokounmpo responded with 26 points, 18 rebounds and five assists despite shooting 10-for-27 from the field.
“There’s going to be times good things are going to happen, there’s going to be times when bad things are going to happen,” Antetokounmpo said. “My mode is to don’t ask, don’t expect, don’t beg; just keep playing the game. That’s what I tried to do tonight and that’s what I’m going to keep doing moving forward.”
Antetokounmpo said after the game his left elbow felt fine even though he shot 6-for-13 from the free throw line and made only one shot after taking a hit on a screen from Adebayo with 5:30 remaining in regulation.
–Field Level Media