(CBSMiami)- The Miami Heat find themselves facing a familiar foe when their 2021 NBA Playoffs play begins, as they take on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. On their run to the NBA Finals in the 2020 NBA Playoffs bubble in Orlando, the Heat discarded the then top seed Bucks in five games, stunning the league in the process. This time around, it’s a No. 3 vs. No. 6 matchup and TNT’s Reggie Miller thinks Eric Spoelstra’s squad can give Giannis and company trouble once more.
“When you play Eric Spoelstra and a Miami Heat team, you know they’re bringing the toughness. They’re bringing their defense. They’re going to get in your grill and play you for 48 minutes. They know how to play Giannis. To me, Bam is the perfect matchup for him because he can pick him up full, he can stay with him as he drives, he has the length to disrupt some of those shots,” Miller said on a Turner Sports media call this week. “Giannis got hurt in that series but injuries happen. But to me this was the worst case scenario for Milwaukee. For them to get to the NBA Finals, they have the toughest road.”READ MORE: Easy To Spot The Bright Planet Venus In Early December
In Miller’s view, the series is a pick ’em, even though the Heat haven’t been quite the same team as we saw in the bubble and despite the fact that he likes the Bucks additions of Jrue Holiday and PJ Tucker. There is one big question for Miller when it comes to the Heat and it’s one that’s on everyone’s mind. Is Jimmy Butler healthy enough for another deep run?
The Heat star guard played in just 52 games this season missing time due to ankle, eye and back injuries. The back tightness kept him out of the team’s final few games of the regular season. Based on history, it would seem doubtful that Butler would miss a playoff game with anything short of a serious ailment. But, at less than 100%, can he help the Heat enough to overcome Milwaukee? This series will mark the first time Butler has played against the Bucks this season.
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Heat vs. East's Top 3 Seeds
PHI 1/12: Jimmy Butler DNP
PHI 1/14: Jimmy Butler DNP
PHI 5/13: Jimmy Butler played, won
BK 1/23: Jimmy Butler DNP
BK 1/25: Jimmy Butler DNP
BK 4/18: Jimmy Butler DNP
MIL 12/29: Jimmy Butler DNP
MIL 12/30: Jimmy Butler DNP
MIL 5/15: Jimmy Butler DNP pic.twitter.com/wljz2WNNmC
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) May 18, 2021
That question remains to be answered. But, for Miller’s fellow TNT analyst Greg Anthony, the question of who wins the series is less up in the air. Anthony believes this version of the Bucks is an improved one more reflective of their status as a contender than in previous years.
“Their record may not be as good but they’re a much better basketball team than they were a year ago. I’m not taking anything away from Miami but I don’t know if Miami is as good as they were a year ago because of everything they’ve had to deal with. I think Giannis is a better basketball player than he was a year ago,” Anthony said. “And, I think he trusts this roster more and I think that’s due to the impact of Jrue Holiday. Holiday has made (Khris) Middleton a better basketball player as well. I’m not ever going to take away from Miami and say, ‘oh this is going to be an easy series.’ I think it will be a competitive series but I don’t think that Milwaukee has as much of an issue advancing.”MORE NEWS: World's Largest Electronic Menorah Lights Up South Florida Skyline
The fun begins on Saturday at 2 p.m. Eastern when Game 1 of the series tips off at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on ESPN.