Tim BontempsESPN4 minute read
MILWAUKEE — Less than two weeks ago, the Miami Heat trailed with less than five minutes left in the final Eastern Conference playoff game against the Chicago Bulls. At this point, it was easy to see a world in which the Heat wouldn’t even make the playoffs — and harder to see them pull off one of the biggest upsets in NBA history after they did.
And yet, that’s exactly what the Heat did on Wednesday night, riding 42 points from Jimmy Butler to beat the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, who entered the playoffs as undisputed favorites to lift the Larry O’ Trophy. Brien for the second time in three. yo – 128-126 in overtime at the Fiserv Forum in Game 5 of this first-round series, sending Giannis Antetokounmpo and his teammates crashing out of the playoffs in the process. Miami advances to face the New York Knicks in the conference semifinals starting Sunday.
In many ways, Game 5 was a repeat of the one the teams had played in Miami 48 hours earlier – up to and including the Heat pulling off a ridiculous comeback to stun the Bucks. While Miami controlled this game more than Game 4, the Bucks controlled much of it and took a 22-6 lead in the fourth quarter.
But after Milwaukee didn’t score for more than three minutes to start the fourth and didn’t score a field goal for nearly five minutes, Miami slowly crawled back into the game – largely because the offense of Milwaukee could not start in the last period.
The Bucks finally had a chance to go down when Jrue Holiday hit a corner 3 with just over 7 minutes left – but wouldn’t have had a second until Wesley Matthews hit a triple nearly four minutes over late. Meanwhile, Miami, behind another superlative effort from Butler, continued to chip away at Milwaukee’s lead until a Butler layup and -1 with 2:34 remaining made Milwaukee 111-108.
After Antetokounmpo missed a short runner on the other end, Butler stopped for a 3-point tie with 2:11 left, with Antetokounmpo and Bam Adebayo taking turns making buckets at both ends on possessions to keep the score even.
Then, after Antetokounmpo and Butler both missed clean looks to put their respective teams ahead, Kevin Love found himself in a tricky position and Khris Middleton made contact to draw a foul, sending Love to the bench with his sixth foul and giving Milwaukee a 115-113 lead after Middleton made the two free throws that followed.
Butler then had a clean look from 3-point range – roughly the same spot he got up from with roughly the same time on the clock in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics last season – to give Miami the lead. But, like that shot last season, he missed.
However, the game was not over. After Holiday hit a pair of free throws to give Milwaukee a four-point lead, Gabe Vincent hit a 3-pointer to cut Milwaukee’s lead to one – then an errant inbound pass turned into a pop ball at the center court with 6 seconds left after a determined challenge, Kyle Lowry was clear of the play.
After Brook Lopez won the mid ball, Antetokounmpo nearly threw it away, only for Middleton to save it to Holiday, who was fouled with 2.1 seconds left. But Holiday went 1 for 2 from the foul line, giving Miami the ball 2 with a chance, again, to tie or win the game.
This time, Butler took a lob pass from Vincent and somehow muscled the ball into the basket with 0.5 seconds left, sending the game into overtime.
In extra session, Milwaukee’s offense continued to stagnate. Antetokounmpo went 3 for 9 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and into overtime, and the Bucks didn’t score an overtime goal until Antetokounmpo’s layup with 59 seconds left brought Milwaukee back to less than two.
But after the Bucks had a chance to tie or win the game in the dying moments after a missed jumper by Vincent, Milwaukee failed to shoot – while having their two timeouts remaining but not using them – and the Heat celebrated on the Milwaukee field, sending the Bucks home.
The Bucks were the consensus favorites to win the NBA title in sports betting entering the playoffs. Milwaukee was around a -1,200 favorite to defeat Miami in their first-round series.
Milwaukee losing this series is an upset on a scale few others can approach in NBA history. The Seattle SuperSonics were heavy favorites when the Denver Nuggets beat them in 1995, but it was a five-game series. The Bulls were huge favorites in the first round of the 2012 playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers, but that streak was irrevocably changed when Derrick Rose tore his ACL in the final minutes of Game 1.
The best comparison is to the 2007 Dallas Mavericks, who lost in six games to the “We Believe” version of the Golden State Warriors. But even that Golden State team won the season series with Dallas and fared well with the Mavs’ 67 wins.
Ultimately, however, the exact placement of this series on such a list doesn’t matter. What does, however, is that the East seed – and the favorite to win the title – saw her season come to a stunning end much earlier than expected.
Information from ESPN’s David Purdum was used in this report.