The Miami Heat will set out to grab a commanding lead in their first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks at a time when the best player on each teams is battling an injury.
The Bucks hope to have Giannis Antetokounmpo back on the court when the two Eastern Conference foes convene for Game 4 on Monday night in Miami. The eighth-seeded Heat lead the series 2-1.
Antetokounmpo is listed as questionable with his lower back injury after missing the past two games. As for the Heat, star forward Jimmy Butler (bruised glute) also is listed as questionable.
Antetokounmpo was injured in Game 1, and the top-seeded Bucks split the two contests he missed.
Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said Antetokounmpo didn’t practice Sunday but was able to do individual work. Budenholzer said the team will continue to monitor the health of the two-time league MVP.
“He always wants to make himself available. He does everything to make himself available,” Budenholzer said. “He wants to play, but I think there’s also a maturity for Giannis and an understanding and a growth that we just respect and I think he respects us.”
Without their star, the Bucks had big issues on Saturday when they were pounded 121-99 by Miami.
Milwaukee trailed by as many as 29 points and committed 18 turnovers -- including five apiece by Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton -- while struggling with the Heat’s defensive tactics.
“If they want to double team us, we have some of the best players, we think,” Middleton said. “The only way by beating that double team is to hit that open man out and play from there. It’s 4-on-3 on the backside, so we’ve got to do a better job of fighting that double team, being smarter and not getting ourselves into terrible turnover situations.”
Butler scored 30 points in 28 minutes on Saturday and is averaging an even 30 for the series. He was injured on a fall after driving for a basket with just over four minutes left in the third quarter and left for good a short time later.
Butler wasn’t interested in discussing his injury on Sunday, and Miami coach Erik Spoelstra downplayed the severity.
“Jimmy looked like Jimmy, and he’s doing a lot of treatment,” Spoelstra said.
Duncan Robinson was 5-of-6 from 3-point range while scoring 20 points in Game 3. He figures to receive additional opportunities with the Heat short-handed on the perimeter.
Miami lost Tyler Herro (broken right hand) in Game 1 and fellow guard Victor Oladipo (torn patellar tendon in left knee) in Game 3. The Oladipo injury came on a drive to the hoop in which his knee gave out and he landed hard under the basket.
Also, Miami center Bam Adebayo (left hamstring) is less than 100 percent. He’s listed as probable for Game 4.
Meanwhile, Spoelstra said there will be multiple game plans and roster implementations looming based on whether Antetokounmpo plays for Milwaukee, which won the NBA title two seasons ago.
“We respect the Bucks deeply,” Spoelstra said. “We know what they’re capable of. And that’s with or without G.A. You have to respect championship DNA. They have it. They have guys that have been through the battles, been through wars. It’s not like they’re going to get sick at sea because they’re down 2-1.”
The Bucks know improved play is a must after being walloped in Game 3. If not, they could head home for Game 5 facing elimination.
“We’ve got a really good team,” Budenholzer said. “This group’s been together. There’s a ton of confidence in that locker room, players that can play and execute at a high level.
“We weren’t our best (Saturday) and we’ve got to look at that. We’ve got to own that and be better going into the next game knowing that we’ve got a really good team and really good players.”
Bucks guard Wesley Matthews (calf) will miss his third straight contest.
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