Don’t call it a comeback. The Milwaukee Bucks have been the best team in the Eastern Conference all year and arguably the NBA.
Giannis Antetokounmpo poured in 33 points and was an assist shy of a triple-double; moreover, the Bucks tied a franchise record for second-half comebacks on the way to beating the Miami Heat 113-98 on Friday night.
The Bucks were 1-100 all time — 0-77 on the road — when trailing by 20 or more at the half. They were down 72-52 at the half against the New York Knicks on Feb. 18, 1977, and won 124-123.
Fast forward to Friday night; the score was Heat 62, Bucks 42 at the half. The most massive deficit of the game was 23, the biggest of the season for the Bucks.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re down 20, 15, 10,” said Antetokounmpo, “We’re going to keep playing hard. It’s a process. You’ve got to win games like this. You’ve got to face adversity when you’re playing on the road. In the playoffs, it’s not going to be easy. We want to be a great team, and that’s why we keep playing hard.”
Antetokounmpo filled the box score with 16 rebounds and nine assists.
Milwaukee outscored Miami 34-18 in the fourth quarter. And became the first team in NBA history to trail by at least 20 at halftime and wind up winning by at least 15 points.
Khris Middleton scored 21, and Eric Bledsoe added 17 for the Bucks, who are looking to close out the season with the NBA’s best record.
For the home heat, other than the points to close out the game, something was missing in the second half.
“We lost our energy in the second half,” Justise Winslow said.
It was the fourth time in franchise history that Miami lost when leading by 20 or more at the half. The Heat had been 51-0 all-time at home and 71-3 all-time overall with a lead that large at the break.
Winlsow led the Heat with 20 points however all were scored in the first half. Hassan Whiteside had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat, Josh Richardson scored 11 points, and Dwyane Wade finished with 10 for Miami. Wade bruised his right hip on a hard fall late in the third quarter.
The Heat’s lead over Orlando and Charlotte for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference is now one game.
The beat goes on as the Bucks host Philadelphia on Sunday. The Heat will host Charlotte on Sunday.