As is always the case when the Miami Heat play, the focus is on the stars. Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and the rest of the Heat play their parts, but this is a team built around the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The Milwaukee Bucks have a few stars of their own, too, albeit more mercurial stars. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are two of the NBA's more exciting scorers when they get going, but they they are hardly efficient scorers and the shots will keep going up regardless of whether or not they are falling. If they get going, though, the Bucks may be able to give Miami some trouble.
As if James wasn't good enough already, he decided to step his game up even more in 2012-13. The 28-year-old had arguably his most efficient offensive year to date this season, setting career highs in field goal percentage and three-point percentage, while averaging 26.8 points on a career low 17.8 shots per game. His 7.3 assists and career high eight rebounds per game weren't too shabby either.
The Bucks know all too well just how good James can be. James averaged 27.5 points in four games against Milwaukee this season, including last week when he led a Wade and Bosh-less Heat team to a win over the Bucks with 28 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.
When healthy, Wade was still one of the best players in the NBA, averaging 21.2 points, five assists and five rebounds per game. He did it all while shooting a career high 51.9% from the field, too, but he played just 68 games and that is the concern for the Heat.
Wade has had a handful of minor injuries that have kept him sidelined, many of which he probably would have played through had it been the postseason, but even minor injuries are a concern. If Wade is healthy, he can punish the Bucks just like he did in the regular season, when he averaged 24 points in three games against Milwaukee.
When Jennings is on the floor, you know the shot is going up, the question is whether it will go in. This season, just like the last three, the answer has been "probably not." After shooting a career high 41.8% last season, Jennings was back down to 39.8% this year.
But Jennings is capable of going off, as he did when he scored 30 points on 16 shots against the Heat just last week. If, and it is a big if, Jennings' shot is going down, he can almost single-handedly win a game. Chalmers has no chance at stopping a red-hot Jennings so if the Bucks want to shock the Heat, it's going to take a few amazing nights from Jennings to do it.
Like Jennings, Ellis is going to get his shots up. He leads the Bucks in shot attempts, but he shot just 41.6% from the field this season, his worst field goal percentage since his rookie year. Ellis has been better at distributing the ball, at least, averaging a career high 6.1 assists, and his average of 19.4 points per game is nothing to sneeze at. Also like Jennings, when Ellis gets going, seemingly everything he throws up goes in; he can steal a game for the Bucks all by himself, so Milwaukee will have their fingers crossed.
The question for Ellis is whether he'll be able to get shots off against Wade and the tough Heat defense. Ellis struggled mightily against the Heat this season, averaging just 9.5 points per game against agianst them (including a game in which Wade did not play), and the last time he faced Wade, he went a measly 3-for-11 from the field.