Miami Heat

Breaking down the series: Heat vs. Bucks

 
WEB VOTE How many times will the Heat be pushed past four game this postseason in the best-of-7 playoffs format?

bjackson@miamiherald.com

SMALL FORWARD

•  Heat: LeBron James: Delivered another MVP season, finishing fourth in scoring (26.8), 10th in assists (7.3) and 21st in rebounding (career-high 8.0) while shooting a career-high 56.5 percent, which ranked fifth. As Mike Dunleavy said, “he’s on a different planet.”

Bucks: Marquis Daniels: On the short end of the biggest positional mismatch in any opening-round playoff series. A journeyman better suited to coming off the bench, Daniels is an above-average perimeter defender and can score a bit (5.5) but isn’t an efficient shooter (37.6 percent and 27.8 on threes).

•  Edge: Heat

POWER FORWARD

•  Heat: Udonis Haslem: Averaged a career-low 18.9 minutes but generally productive in those minutes, ranking 11th among power forwards in rebounds per 48 minutes at 13.7.

•  Bucks: Ersan Ilyasova: Has given the Heat fits in the past with his rebounding (ranked 33rd in the league this season at 7.1 per game), hustle and three-point shooting (44.4 percent on threes ranked fourth in the league).

•  Edge: Bucks.

CENTER

•  Heat: Chris Bosh: Didn’t rebound up to his usual standards this season (6.8 per game), but finished 32nd in scoring (16.6) and 14th in field-goal percentage (53.5). No NBA player shot better in the clutch this season. He can pull Sanders away from the basket when Miami is on offense.

•  Bucks: Larry Sanders: Slowed by a bad back in the past week, but a very good rebounder and defender when healthy. He finished second in the league in blocks (2.8 per game) and 12th in rebound average (9.5). Offensive game (9.8 points) has developed.

•  Edge: Heat.

POINT GUARD

•  Heat: Mario Chalmers: Shot a career high on threes (40.9—– 25th in the league), and his assist to turnover average (3.5 to 1.6) was his best in four years. Played well the past two months after erratic start.

•  Bucks: Brandon Jennings: Ranked 23rd in the NBA in scoring (17.5), 16th in assists (6.5) and 19th in steals. Shows flashes of brilliance but not an efficient shooter: 39.9 percent this season.

•  Edge: Bucks.

SHOOTING GUARD

•  Heat: Dwyane Wade: Attempted fewer shots than ever before, but he has never been more efficient. Wade is just the fourth shooting guard in 20 years to average 20 points and shoot at least 52 percent.

•  Bucks: Monta Ellis: Ranked 11th in scoring (19.2) and fourth in steals (2.06), but 41.6 shooting percentage was well below his 45.6 career average and he played poorly against the Heat this season.

•  Edge: Heat.

BENCH

Heat: The best in the Big 3 era, with a Hall-of-Fame-caliber shooter (Ray Allen), a savvy shooter/defender enjoying his best season ever from three-point range (Shane Battier), a much-improved backup point guard (Norris Cole) and an quintessential energy man (Chris Andersen). Rashard Lewis and Mike Miller can contribute if needed.

•  Bucks: Milwaukee has some quality depth, with dangerous shooters J.J. Redick (14.1 points per game) and Mike Dunleavy, emerging center John Henson and hustling Luc Mbah a Moute. Coach Jim Boylan said he doesn’t expect to use Sam Dalembert or Drew Gooden.

•  Edge: Heat.

COACHING

•  Heat: The Heat is the first defending champion to post the best overall regular season record since the 1997-98 Bulls. Erik Spoelstra deserves credit not only for pushing this team past any championship hangover but for implementing an offensive system that emphasizes quick ball movement and results in a ton of corner threes. Moving Haslem back into the starting lineup also worked out.

Bucks: Milwaukee responded well initially after Scott Skiles stepped down when the Bucks were 16-16. But the Bucks have faded badly since, and Boylan — 22-28 since taking over — appears unlikely to be retained next season. Boylan’s only previous head coaching stint? With the 2007-08 Bulls (24-32).

•  Edge: Heat.

INTANGIBLES

Heat: Miami couldn’t be playing any better, having won 37 of its past 39. Unlike last season, the weight of never having won a title has been lifted from LeBron James’ shoulder. And this team is simply better than the last year’s incarnation.

Bucks: Milwaukee sputters into the playoffs, going 6-15 down the stretch. Milwaukee played well against the Miami in two early season games — an overtime loss and a 104-85 trouncing of the Heat in late December. But the Heat controlled two subsequent meetings, and the Bucks don’t have the talent to match up.

•  Edge: Heat.

•  Pick: Heat in four.

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