Mike Budenholzer failed the Milwaukee Bucks again as the Miami Heat took a commanding 3-0 series lead.
With their backs against the wall heading into Game 3, the Milwaukee Bucks needed a win to avoid falling into the dreaded 0-3 hole that no NBA playoff team has ever recovered from. Unfortunately for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, Jimmy Butler and Mike Budenholzer weren’t having it.
Following a 15-point defeat against the Miami Heat on Friday, the Bucks once again find themselves on the brink of heading home far sooner than anyone imagined. Giannis Antetokounmpo was not his usual MVP self once again in the face of Miami’s wall of defenders on the interior, which limited him to 21 points, 16 rebounds and 9 assists on 7-of-21 shooting.
Khris Middleton added 18 points while Brook Lopez led the way with 22, but the Heat got at least 15 points out of four of their five starters, including 30 from Jimmy Butler, who came to life in the fourth quarter to absolutely bury Milwaukee during its stunning collapse.
What else did you miss in Game 3 between the Bucks and Heat?
Turning point: Heat come out firing in the 4th
The Bucks had closed the third quarter on a 15-4 run to take an 8-point lead into the final period. With 10 minutes to go in the game, Milwaukee led 91-80. What happened next was just sheer devastation on the Bucks part, and it all traces back to Budenholzer’s abhorrent decision-making with his rotations and his team’s inability to run any kind of offense in this series.
The Heat first ripped off a 7-0 run, cutting their deficit to four points. For some bizarre reason, Bud decided that was the time to sub Giannis out…right as Miami was making its comeback push, with 8:41 remaining. The Heat extended their run to 12-2, cutting Milwaukee’s lead to one.
Budenholzer mercifully subbed Giannis back in at that point, but the momentum of the game had already shifted. The Heat’s barrage continued, extending to a 18-4 run to give them a 3-point lead. When all was said and done, the Heat had outscored the Bucks by a pathetic 40-13 margin in the final period, ending the game on a 35-9 tear after Milwaukee had led 91-80 with 10 minutes to play. Over the last 4:41, the Bucks scored one point. Talk about a meltdown.
LVP: Mike Budenholzer
Antetokounmpo has not been dominant in this second-round series and settled far too often from beyond the arc in Game 3 (0-for-7). Eric Bledsoe has largely been a ghost when he’s played. The bench has shriveled up. But if anyone’s looking for the reason this series has gone the way it’s gone, look no further than Mike Budenholzer’s incompetence in making playoff adjustments.
Again, we hate to keep harping on this, because Bud’s system has been proven to work in the regular season. But this isn’t the regular season anymore, and Erik Spoelstra is absolutely eating him alive on the coaching front. Bud’s inexplicable refusal to shorten his bench is infuriating — especially in a do-or-die game, with his team already down 0-2 in the series, not to mention everything that’s riding on Milwaukee’s title quest this year as Giannis approaches free agency next summer.
Budenholzer is simply inept when it comes to making playoff adjustments, as his track record indicates:
Playing the league’s likely two-time MVP 35 minutes in such a game was inexcusable, as was 36 minutes for Khris Middelton and 21 minutes for Wesley Matthews — one of the few Bucks who’s actually guarded Jimmy Butler well. Continuing to roll with lineups that don’t include one of Giannis or Middleton was indefensible. And subbing Giannis out right in the middle of Miami’s fourth-quarter run was downright moronic.
Milwaukee’s failures in this series extend far beyond simply blaming the head coach, but Budenholzer is reasons 1A, 1B, 1C and 1D as to why the team that was favored to win the East is on the verge of being eliminated in the second round.
MVP: Jimmy Butler
The marriage between Jimmy Butler and Heat Culture has been a perfect union, and it’s showing against this catastrophic Bucks squad that’s terrified of such a cutthroat mentality. In Game 3, Jimmy Buckets dropped 17 of his team-high 30 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in the fourth quarter, outscoring Milwaukee 17-13 in the period by himself.
Bam Adebayo was tremendous with his 20 points, 16 rebounds and 2 blocks, while Jae Crowder chipped in a pleasantly surprising 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting from downtown. But Butler is still the engine that makes this versatile team tick, and his joy in twisting the knife as the Bucks bled out made the disparity between these two playoff teams all the more noticeable.