MILWAUKEE — The 2021 NBA Playoffs got off to a thrilling start on Saturday afternoon, as the Milwaukee Bucks snuck past the Miami Heat in overtime, 109-107, thanks to a last-second jumper by Khris Middleton.
After Goran Dragic hit a 3-pointer to tie the game with 20 seconds to play, the Bucks had the ball and a chance to win on the final possession. And while Giannis Antetokounmpo might be their best player, those kinds of moments belong to Middleton, who’s much better at creating his own shot. That’s just what he did this time.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer decided not to call a timeout, and instead let Middleton play a little two-man game with Brook Lopez. The Heat switched the screen, and in the process, Trevor Ariza jumped out just a little bit too far. That gave Middleton the angle to drive and get to his spot. Duncan Robinson eventually switched back, but by then Middleton was in the zone. He pulled up, faded away and caught nothing but net.
“Just gotta get to a spot where I knew could possibly get a shot off or hit Brook with a roll,” Middleton said. “Ended up getting to the spot for a shot and just raise up and shoot it. Gotta get the last one and took as much time off the clock as I can. I delivered the results afterward.”
Middleton finished the game with 27 points, six rebounds and six assists to get the Bucks out to a crucial 1-0 lead. Obviously, you want to start every series with a win, but getting off to a good start was especially important for the Bucks given their history with the Heat.
Last summer in the bubble, the Bucks got embarrassed by the Heat in a second-round upset. A Game 1 loss to the same team this time around would have made it easy for the doubts and negativity to start creeping in again. Instead, Middleton saved the day.
“He makes big shots every game, all game,” Jrue Holiday said. “For him, that type of situation is literally what he does. Being put in that position, that’s why they pay him the big bucks.”