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Adebayo-led Heat hold Giannis, Bucks in check

MIAMI — It felt like a statement win at the perfect time Monday night, but according to Miami Heat All-Star Bam Adebayo, his team’s 105-89 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks shows the Heat’s potential yet doesn’t change their underdog status.

“We’re always the underdog. I feel like we can play with anybody. And my teammates believe that, the coaching staff believes that and this city believed it,” Adebayo said. “So we can play with anybody and this is one knock off and we just gotta keep going from here.”

Adebayo’s defensive impact played a huge role in holding Bucks star and reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to a season-low 13 points. Antetokounmpo was 6-of-18 from the field (33.3%), tied for his second-worst shooting game of the season.

Antetokounmpo went 1-of-10 with Adebayo as his primary defender, including 0-of-7 on contested shots.

“When you get in this profession, you want the coaches to put more on your plate,” said Adebayo, who finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. “That’s been my challenge. Go out there and guard the best player and get it done on both ends. It’s been working out pretty good for me. Just got to keep that thing going.

“[Antetokounmpo is] a handful when he’s running at you full speed. I feel like we did a good job containing him in transition. I feel like that’s where he gets his flow in when he gets in transition, and I thank my teammates for not leaving me one-on-one.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra added: “This was one of the prototypical Bam Adebayo winning games.”

Antetokounmpo had zero points in transition Monday, just the second time this season he was held scoreless in transition.

“You’re going to win some games and you’re going to lose some games. We’re not going to go 82-0,” Antetokounmpo said. “Miami is a great team. They came out and played really hard tonight, and we’re definitely going to play them again at some point and we’ll have to play better and play hard.”

The Heat (39-22) won the season series 2-0 against the Bucks and became the only team to beat Milwaukee twice this season; the teams meet March 16 for the final time in the regular season.

Miami used a 3-point barrage (18 made 3s, 48.6% from deep) and one of its best defensive performances of the season to hold Milwaukee to a season-low 89 points.

“That is how we want to play all the time. Unfortunately we do not do that. [Monday] could be what we look like,” said Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler, who tied Jae Crowder with a team-high 18 points Monday night. “I love the way that we played [Monday]. Everybody shared the ball, everyone guarded and everyone was communicating. We had fun. We were smiling. We are tough.”

After losses to Atlanta, Cleveland and Minnesota over the past two weeks, the Heat bounced back with arguably their best performance of the season.

The Bucks (52-9) were held under 100 points in consecutive games for the first time since March 5 and 7 of 2018.

“If we see them in the playoffs, which is a month and a half away from now, we gotta be ready,” Antetokounmpo said.

If current seedings hold, the Bucks (the top seed) and Heat (currently fourth) could face off in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

“We can hang with the best of them,” Adebayo said. “It’s not just the Bucks, we can hang with the best of them.”

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