The Miami Heat’s 116-114 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 2 featured one of the strangest endings to an NBA playoff game in recent memory. What seemed like a foregone conclusion when the Heat took a nine-point lead with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter devolved into a bizarre sequence of calls and miscues.
It was only appropriate that a game in which players were whistled for a total of 51 personal fouls was ultimately resolved by the administration of justice. Not so long ago, shooting fouls on 3-point attempts were a relatively rare occurrence in NBA games. But on Wednesday night, the Bucks and Heat were called for seven of them. At issue for the game officials: defenders yielding sufficient landing space for perimeter shooters, a point of emphasis for the league in recent seasons.
When it was all over, the top-seeded Bucks fell behind 2-0 in the Eastern conference semifinals series. After winning three-quarters of their regular-season games over the past two seasons, Milwaukee risks falling shy of the Finals as a favorite for the second consecutive season. If the Bucks stage a comeback, they’ll have to mount it against a confident, focused, sweet-shooting Heat team whose defensive activity looks every bit as pesky as that of the Bucks’ vaunted, top-ranked unit.
For sheer spectacle, the closing moments of Game 2 are worth another look, with commentary from those who were there. — Kevin Arnovitz
MORE: Watching Game 2 with Bucks owner Marc Lasry
19.8 seconds left: Heat 113, Bucks 107
As officials reviewed the previous out-of-bounds call, the Bucks gathered on the sideline, leading to a delay-of-game violation. The confusion led Milwaukee to call a timeout, giving coach Mike Budenholzer a chance to draw up a play.
Goran Dragic, Heat guard: We were up 11 points, they called a flagrant foul on Bam [Adebayo], then they get offensive rebound and shoot a 3 so it’s basically from 11 points down to 5 to 3. It was just a tough game overall.
Mike Budenholzer, Bucks coach: We are getting good looks and executing and getting free throws, getting turnovers and steals. I think there were some good plays defensively and offensively in the last 20 seconds and there are a couple things we wish went a different way.
Erik Spoelstra, Heat coach: Emotionally you have six-point lead going down the stretch but you know that you have to execute, be able to get a couple of baskets because you know how fast they’re going to get up the court and they do present some challenges there. We didn’t handle it perfectly (laughs) as you can tell but we’ll use those teaching moments tomorrow.
15.0 seconds left, Heat 113, Bucks 109
After Giannis Antetokounmpo’s dunk cut Miami’s lead to four, the Heat chose not to call a timeout and inbounded from the baseline. The Bucks didn’t foul, instead trapping Jimmy Butler in the backcourt.
Jimmy Butler, Heat guard: I tried to shoot it in their basket, obviously, and I almost made it. I don’t know why I threw the ball so high like Goran could jump that high and grab it. But I saw Goran and thought, “Throw it Goran’s way.” That’s actually a terrible IQ play. You should never throw the ball towards the other team’s basket. I had a lapse of judgment.
8.5 seconds left: Heat 113, Bucks 111
With their lead trimmed to 2 points, the Heat chose to call timeout and advance the ball to half court. Butler corralled the inbounds pass and was immediately fouled, sending him to the line for two free throws.
7.7 seconds left: Heat 114, Bucks 111
After Butler split his free throws, Milwaukee called timeout and reinserted Khris Middleton, who’d gone to the bench during the previous timeout because he had five fouls. He went up for a potential game-tying 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left, and Dragic was whistled for a foul for stepping into Middleton’s landing area.
Spoelstra: They say it’s a kick, I say it’s not, so they’re right at the end of the day. That’s what I tell our players all the time. You can argue or not, they made the call and that’s the call and then go to the replay and still make the call. There’s no argument there.
Spoelstra: From our standpoint we’re fouling too much on shooters. Two straight games, whether we agree or not agree. We have to be more disciplined. Those are costly plays, the 3-point fouls.
4.3 seconds left: Heat 114, Bucks 114
The Heat used their final timeout to set up one last play. Butler got the ball, dribbled down the clock and took a step-back baseline jumper just before the buzzer. It missed, but Antetokounmpo was called for a foul. The Bucks couldn’t challenge the call, because Budenholzer had used his challenge earlier in the second half to overturn what would have been Antetokounmpo’s fourth foul. Officials reviewed to make sure the foul occurred before the buzzer, and eventually sent Butler to the line with zeros on the clock.
Spoelstra: We had a couple of different options to that play. Doesn’t take a genius to know that we were going to get the ball in Jimmy’s mitts and see what can happen from there and he was very patient. Four seconds left, I think a lot of players would probably be rushed. He took his time he was going to try to get to his spot.
Butler: It was an ISO, Goran made a helluva pass on the inbound, then just wait for the clock to go out. A step-back jumper and I got fouled, pushed me in the back. [shrugs] Can’t deny that.
Antetokounmpo: I haven’t seen the play. I’ve gotta go watch the play again. Tried to make it tough for Jimmy. The ref said that there was contact there, maybe there was, I gotta watch the play. It is what it is.
Tyler Herro, Heat guard: Thank God Jimmy got fouled. We got the ball to our best player and he made a play and got fouled and knocked down the two free throws. We wanted to win so bad.”
Budenholzer: We are disappointed with the judgment and decision on the timing. It is a tough job and I have a lot of respect for the officials, the crew tonight. It is not an easy job and of course we have our ways of seeing things.
— ESPN (@espn) September 3, 2020
Antetokounmpo: I feel like personally it was the right play. I’ve done this multiple times in my career. When the guy is dribbling and getting his rhythm going, like he’s got 4 seconds, he’s not going to pass the ball, he’s going to shoot the ball. So I’m just going to look at the play to see if it was the right play.
Middleton: It’s definitely tough to go out like that, where we didn’t even get a chance at all with no time on the clock. I don’t think I’ve seen that before, in a regular season or playoff game. So it’s definitely a tough way to go out.
Jimmy Butler hits the free throw for the win! pic.twitter.com/7L5cGaUwSi
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 3, 2020
Butler: I guess there’s no fans on any free throws.So it’s kind of the same, it’s just different whenever — like nobody on the line at the end of the game. But you step up and you make one, and that’s the ballgame so I felt like I did that, did my job, and that part of it, it was different, but it’s still a free shot.
Marc Lasry, Bucks owner (in a postgame text to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan): “To lose a game like that. It’s just wrong.”
As Butler walked off the court, he spotted Heat president Pat Riley in the crowd.
Jimmy Butler sees Pat Riley & says “You’re healthy, so we don’t gotta worry about no heart attacks” 🤣 pic.twitter.com/ZyLJ9tO8yJ
— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) September 3, 2020
Butler: That’s the godfather, man. That’s the OG. A huge reason why I’m here, obviously. But I said time and time again, he wanted me here and that’s the best feeling to know that you’re wanted in an organization and they want you as a player, they want what you can bring to the table. He has so much trust and belief in my abilities. It just trickles down the line, man. I’m thankful for him, Spo, all of these knuckleheads I get to hoop with. It’s a blessing being here in Miami.
The Heat now lead the series 2-0. Game 3 is set for Friday.