Oh my God.
Label the Miami Heat a fifth seed all you want; however, they started from the bottom now they are here.
The fifth-seeded Heat sealed and stunned the NBA’s best regular-season team Tuesday, eliminating the Milwaukee Bucks 103-94 in Game 5 of their East semifinal series.
Jimmy Butler and the Heat are taking their talents to the Eastern Conference finals.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s reigning MVP, couldn’t play because of a sprained right ankle that he suffered in game three then reinjured in game four.
Antetokounmpo cheered his teammates from the bench.
Milwaukee opened the game on a 28-15 run.
Now, he and the Bucks are leaving the bubble.
“I wanted to play,” Antetokounmpo said. “You know I wanted to play. I know I wanted to play. My coach knows I wanted to play, but at the end of the day, the organization put my health over Game 5.”
Khris Middleton had 23 points to lead Milwaukee.
The NBA went to the 16-team playoff format in 1984, and this is only the sixth time in those 37 seasons that the No. 1 seed did not make the East finals.
I picked the Bucks, like many, to make it to the NBA Finals. Moreover, I wondered who would stop Antetokounmpo, the potential back-to-back MVP? A right ankle injury stopped him. How would the Heat handle the Bucks defense? A 30-9 run in with just over four minutes in the first half proved the Heat can defend themselves with offense to counter-attack.
The Heat awaits the winner of the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors series.
“It is not easy to get to conference finals,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelsta said. “It is not our ultimate goal, we get it, but you can still acknowledge the journey. Just how hard it is.”
This is Miami’s seventh trip to the conference finals since 2005, the most of anyone in the East and matching the most of any team in the NBA in that span; San Antonio also has seven such trips since 2005.
“We want to win it, we want a championship,” Butler shared. “That is what we are focused on. These next eight are going to be harder than the previous eight and we know that, we are ready for it.”
They are back in the Eastern Conference finals but it feels so long ago. Consider the Golden State Warriors out west, the LeBron led Cleveland Cavaliers and the emergence of teams like the Bucks, Celtics and Raptors who made the Heat an after thought.
In addition, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh who were key players on those teams the last time the Heat took their talents to the Eastern Conference finals are not even in the NBA anymore. LeBron remains the anomaly.
It’s Miami’s first time in the East finals since 2014, and the first time Jimmy Butler has gotten this deep in the playoffs.
Butler and Goran Dragic scored 17 points for the Heat.
Miami survived on a night where they committed 22 turnovers.
The Bucks did not go out with a real fight.
Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old African American man, was shot seven times in the back and seriously injured by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He survived but is hospitalized. The Bucks led a player boycott earlier in these playoffs to reiterate this restarted season’s primary mission, using the NBA platform to highlight a need to end racial injustice.
The NBA teams are in a bubble to prevent Covid-19 moreover the safety of each other. There was no stoppage of play because of it. What stopped play in the bubble? Racism and social inequality.