The first round of the Playoffs is usually home of the expected, matches without major surprises in which the teams that dominated the regular season typically have an easy time moving on to the second act of the postseason. Every year, the occasional underdog may turn things around and take out a headlining seed, though it is not a common occurrence.
But regarding about uncommon occurrences, surprising facts or tough-to-believe scenarios, the first round of the current Playoffs is a clear example. From the Lakers’ domination of the Grizzlies to the Knicks’ superiority over a scary Cavs team, the final phase of the season has been surprising for everyone.
The series between the Milwaukee Bucks (2020 NBA champions) and the Miami Heat (this year’s seventh seed in the eastern conference) has also been astonishing, with a 3-1 lead favoring the Florida-based squad as of today that looks like it could result in the elimination of one of the favorites to win the championship ring.
‘Playoff Jimmy’ spoils the fun for the Bucks:
A big part of the blame for the current result of the matchup belongs to Jimmy Butler, who always steps up when playoff time arrives (as foreshadowed in ELXIIDEAL’s Playoffs guidebook) and has just put up one of the best postseason performances of all time.
In the game that could have equalized the series and undid the theft of homecourt advantage the Heat accomplished earlier in the matchup, the former Chicago Bull (also once a part of the 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves) scored 56 points (in close to 70% field goal shooting) to give an edge to its team, numbers that put him among Michael Jordan, Elgin Baylor, Donovan Mitchell and Charles Barkley as the author of one of the highest scoring nights in postseason history.
If that was not enough, Jimmy “Buckets” has led his team (and the game in its entirety) in scoring in the four playoff clashes between both teams as of today, putting Erik Spoelstra’s team on his back during the indefinite absence (due to injury) of Tyler Herro, their second-best scorer.
To do that, he has increased his field goal and three-point percentages close to 9% (from 54% to 63%) and 18% (from 35% to 53%) respectively, achieving a monstrous average of 36.5 points per game along with just 1.8 turnovers per night (just 0.2 higher than its regular season numbers).
The shipwreck of one of the favorites:
On the flip side, a struggling Milwaukee Bucks team can be found due to time missed by their superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek has missed out on the second and third games entirely after playing just eleven minutes in the series opener, a determining factor for Mike Budenholzer’s team, who have very much missed the 31 points and 12 rebounds they were used to getting from the two-time MVP every game of the season.
Despite his comeback for game four, the Wisconsin-based team has not managed to tie up the series and will need to win the remaining three matches (if they are not eliminated beforehand) to keep on chasing their ambitious aspirations as title favorites.
If the Bucks have an early departure, the 76ers and Celtics should be the ones to play out a hypothetical eastern conference finals, although, if Butler continues to perform like he has so far, Miami’s ceiling will remain unknown despite their poor regular season.
Main image: @MiamiHEAT.