The 3-point shot became a permanent part of NBA basketball in the 1979-1980 season. The 2021 NBA playoffs therefore mark the 42nd NBA postseason with the 3-point line painted on courts around the league. The Miami Heat blasted the Milwaukee Bucks from the 3-point line on Saturday afternoon, but still lost, 109-107. You might think this doesn’t happen very often, and you would be right… but just how rare was this game in a larger historical context?
Rarer than you might think.
Tim Reynolds, who covers the Heat for the Associated Press, noted that Saturday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first round marked just the second time in 42 years of NBA playoff history that a team lost in spite of a massive advantage in 3-point production:
Only the second time in NBA history that a team outscored an opponent by 45 points from the 3-point line and lost.
Heat outscored Bucks 60-15 from deep today.
The other: Heat were outscored 54-6 from deep by the Knicks in January 2012, but beat New York 99-89 that night.
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) May 22, 2021
It is fascinating that the Heat were part of both games, and doubly fascinating that they were on opposite sides — once the unlikely victor, once the unlikely loser — in these two instances.
The Heat’s 60-15 advantage in 3-point scoring against the Bucks came primarily from Duncan Robinson. The sharpshooter who helped Miami reach the 2020 NBA Finals in the Orlando Bubble was on the mark in Milwaukee. He hit 7 of 13 triples to keep his team afloat.
Heat teammate Goran Dragic helped Robinson from long range, hitting 5 of 10 long balls to give Miami 20 3-point makes on 50 attempts. The Bucks, in marked contrast, hit just 5 of 31 3-pointers.
The Bucks were able to offset that negative-45 point differential with a 37-16 advantage in 2-point makes and five more made foul shots, 20-15. Milwaukee held Jimmy Butler to 4-of-22 shooting from the field, and limited Bam Adebayo to a 4-of-15 shooting total. Tyler Herro, an essential role player for the Heat in their run to the finals last year in the Orlando bubble, finished 2 of 10. The three players combined for a 10-of-47 shooting clip, which offset the flamethrowing from Robinson and Dragic.
In Game 2, we will see if the Bucks make up ground from 3-point range, and if the Heat’s best players shoot a much higher percentage.