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What I am Listening to: HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy spoke with a few NBA executives who defined to him how the Milwaukee Dollars are pushing all of the proper buttons to stay Giannis Antetokounmpo within the group for a very long time.
USA TODAY

MIAMI — By the point the Milwaukee Dollars went into halftime trailing the Miami Warmth by way of 20 issues, there can have been a deserved sense of here-we-go-again.

The Dollars had misplaced 5 instantly video games in Miami, their final victory coming greater than 3 years in the past on Jan. 19, 2016. AmericanAirlines Enviornment used to be the web page of one of the most Dollars’ worst offensive showings this yr, too, as they mustered simply 8 first-quarter issues on find out how to a 94-87 loss on Dec. 22.

To make issues worse — onerous to do going through a season-worst 20-point deficit at halftime — the Dollars misplaced beginning guard Malcolm Brogdon to proper heel soreness after he performed simply 6½ mins.

However after booting the primary half of, the Dollars rallied in a significant means in the second one.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo out-muscled any individual who dared get between him and the basket. Khris Middleton went on a capturing splurge. Ersan Ilyasova equipped a crucial bump off the bench, and the Dollars locked down on protection as they surged to a 113-98 victory to near out their three-game highway commute and exorcise their South Seaside demons.

“It doesn’t topic if we’re down 20, 15, 10, we’re going to stay taking part in onerous and it’s a procedure,” Antetokounmpo mentioned. “You’ve were given to win video games like this, you’ve were given to stand adversity whilst taking part in at the highway as a result of within the playoffs it’s no longer going to be simple. We need to be an ideal workforce and that’s why we’re going to stay taking part in onerous each and every night time and each and every time we move in the market and feature an opportunity to play a ball sport we’ll all the time play onerous.”

Milwaukee’s surge got here after a primary half of through which Miami, led by way of Justise Winslow’s red-hot capturing and 20 issues together with all-out hustle and depth from up and down the roster, seemed poised to blow out the Dollars — their would-be opponent within the opening spherical of the playoffs.

After trailing by way of as many as 23 issues, although, the Dollars in the long run led by way of as many as 19 overdue within the fourth quarter, outscoring the Warmth 71-36 after intermission. In keeping with the Related Press, Friday marked the primary time in NBA historical past a workforce trailed by way of 20 or extra issues at halftime and went directly to win by way of a minimum of 15 issues.

“It used to be a horrible first half of,” Middleton mentioned. “Bud got here in right here and didn’t yell at us, however he were given his level throughout. We were not striking our our bodies on them, making them play, simply the whole thing used to be too simple for them. In the second one half of, we attempted to be slightly bit extra competitive. … It labored.”

The most important distinction used to be Milwaukee’s second-half protection. Trainer Mike Budenholzer followed a switching scheme within the first quarter — a lot previous than standard — because the Warmth constructed that 23-point lead. It did not affect the sport right away, however through the years the Dollars started to peer effects.

Antetokounmpo took at the problem of guarding Winslow for a lot of the second one half of, conserving him scoreless over the general 24 mins. As a workforce, the Warmth made simply 27.five % in their photographs (11-of-40) after the damage, and the Dollars became the ones misses into alternatives by way of pushing the ball off rebounds.

“Miami’s an ideal workforce if you happen to play set offense,” Antetokounmpo mentioned. “You play gradual with them, they’re going so that you could forestall you as a result of they play nice workforce protection. Should you’re ready to rebound the ball, run, make performs, get open photographs and simply play with tempo, it is more difficult for them to protect.”

Offensively, it used to be Middleton, who completed with 21 issues, 8 assists and 5 rebounds, who first gave the Dollars existence. Middleton made a sequence of tricky photographs, popping a couple of Three-pointers and a protracted 2 to assist the Dollars reduce their 20-point halftime deficit right down to 11.

Antetokounmpo chipped in seven issues within the 3rd quarter, however with each he and Middleton wearing a heavy load and Middleton coming into foul hassle, Budenholzer went to the bench towards the top of the duration. That is when Ilyasova took at the scoring mantle and stored the comeback going.

Ilyasova poured in 10 of his 15 issues within the ultimate Three:07 of the 3rd quarter, drawing a nasty and making each unfastened throws, including a Three-pointer, tapping again an offensive rebound and in any case connecting on a nook Three-pointer with zero.nine seconds at the clock to convey the Dollars inside of one heading into the fourth.

“Khris in point of fact stored us afloat in a pair other stretches after which Ersan made some photographs, Pat (Connaughton) made some photographs, then Nikola (Mirotic) made some photographs and it turned into contagious,” Budenholzer mentioned.

Antetokounmpo took over from there, striking an exclamation level at the win.

He drove with ferocity to the rim for layups, dunks and fouls whilst scoring 11 of his 33 issues within the ultimate stanza. He ripped down rebounds in site visitors and depended on teammates with passes, environment them up for luck. He additionally anchored the protection, locking down Winslow and swooping in for tough blocks on the rim on multiple instance.

It used to be an MVP-caliber efficiency for the Dollars megastar as he buttressed his 33 issues with 16 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 blocks and two steals.

How did Budenholzer and the Dollars unencumber that roughly second-half efficiency?

“I believe Giannis almost certainly were given the important thing in his locker and took it out and used it on himself,” Budenholzer mentioned. “He’s, I believe, a mentally tricky participant. He’s a man that expects numerous himself, he has very top requirements for himself.”

Eric Bledsoe supported the Dollars’ best scorers with 17 issues — 12 in the second one half of — whilst Pat Connaughton added 13 issues off the bench whilst slotting in for Brogdon. Budenholzer did not have an replace on Brogdon’s heel soreness after the sport, pronouncing handiest that Brogdon could be evaluated additional in Milwaukee on Saturday. Brogdon has been managing plantar fasciitis and ache in that foot at more than a few instances this season.

Guard George Hill returned from a left groin damage after a nine-game absence, logging seven quiet first-half mins within the win. D.J. Wilson, caught to the bench not too long ago, additionally made a good affect in the second one half of with 4 issues in 9 mins together with a ravishing help to Connaughton — Wilson stuck the ball after chopping into the lane then did a 180-degree spin to fireside to Connaughton vast open within the nook.

That connection gave Milwaukee its biggest result in that time — six issues — with not up to 8½ mins final and the Dollars stored rolling from there.

Finishing the comeback with a decisive win did not simply imply one thing as it ended the Dollars’ South Seaside skid. It additionally gave them self assurance heading towards the playoffs since they probably may see the Warmth back within the first spherical.

“All the ones video games after we play towards Charlotte, Orlando, Miami, they’re imaginable combatants for us within the playoffs,” Ilyasova. “That’s why this sport is essential so far as sending the message we’re able for no matter comes subsequent.”

Matt Velazquez writes for the Milwaukee Magazine Sentinel, a part of the US TODAY Community.

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