Giannis Antetokounmpo was ruled out before halftime on Sunday as the No. 8 seed Miami Heat scored a 130-117 win to take a 1-0 series lead over the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.
The Heat, meanwhile, lost starting guard Tyler Herro to a broken hand. He was ruled out at halftime, but his Heat teammates picked up the slack with an offensive outburst in his absence.
Giannis Antetokounmpo falls hard on his back
Antetokounmpo sustained his injury on a hard fall late in the first quarter after making contact with Kevin Love on a drive to the basket. Love was whistled for a block on the play.
Antetokounmpo shot his free throws and tried to continue to play through the injury before leaving the court. He returned, but left for good in the second quarter and was ruled out before halftime with a lower back contusion.
Mike Budenholzer on Giannis: We’ll ‘see how he wakes up’
Head coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters after the game that Antetokounmpo’s X-ray came back “clear.”
“We’ll monitor him and see how he wakes up tomorrow,” Budenholzer said.
Antetokounmpo tallied 6 points and 3 rebounds in 11 minutes of play as the Heat opened up a 68-55 halftime lead. His absence was glaring, and an extended injury would reshape the postseason and put Milwaukee’s championship hopes in peril after it entered the playoffs with the best record in the NBA.
Tyler Herro shoots with broken hand, leaves at halftime
Herro, meanwhile, injured his hand while diving for a loose ball in the final minute of the first half. He tried to leave the court, but remained in the game as play continued and even took a shot. He was in obvious pain before jogging to the locker room at the halftime buzzer.
The Heat announced his status at halftime.
Heat catch fired, fend off Bucks rallies
After trailing by 13 at the half, Milwaukee made a run to keep things close in the third, cutting its deficit to as close as 81-77. But the Heat closed the quarter with a 21-11 run powered in part by a 10-point third quarter from Love, who took on a larger role from long distance with Herro sidelined.
With five-time All-Defensive Team member Antetokounmpo out, the Heat feasted on Milwaukee’s defense. They shot 59.5% from the field and 60% (15 of 25) from 3-point distance. They scored 102 points through three quarters. The Bucks repeatedly cut the lead to single digits in the fourth quarter, but Miami never let them close enough to challenge the lead.
Butler leads the way
Jimmy Butler led the way with 35 points, 11 assists and 3 steals. Bam Adebayo added 22 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals, while Love tallied 18 points and 8 rebounds off the bench while shooting 4 of 7 from 3-point distance. Love, a 34-year-old former All-Star, averaged 7.7 points in 21 games this season.
Where the Heat found their stroke, the Bucks struggled from long distance in an 11-of-45 (24.4%) effort from 3. They shot 49.5% from the floor overall, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with a scorching Heat effort. Khris Middleton led the Milwaukee effort with 33 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists while Jrue Holiday added 16 points and 16 assists. He shot 2 of 9 from 3-point distance.
Antetokounmpo, a two-time league MVP and 2021 Finals MVP, is the primary force driving Milwaukee as a favorite to win the championship. He averaged 31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game this season while shooting 55.3% from the field. He was recently named one of three MVP finalists alongside Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokić.
Any absence is obviously of significant concern for the Bucks and the NBA. If he misses more time, Milwaukee will lean more on multi-time All-Stars Holiday and Middleton, who was cleared for a full playoff workload after being sidelined and limited in the regular season with multiple injuries.
The Heat, meanwhile, have an opening to challenge for a second playoff upset of the Bucks in four seasons. The No. 5 seed Heat beat the top-seeded Bucks in 2020 during the playoff bubble in Florida en route to the NBA Finals. But they have their own injury concern to worry about.
Fresh off a Sixth Man of the Year award in 2022, Herro stepped into the starting lineup this season as Miami’s third-leading scorer. He averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists this season while shooting 37.8% on eight 3-point attempts per game.
Game 2 is scheduled for Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NBA TV) in Milwaukee.