There was a lot of anticipation heading into the Milwaukee Bucks’ playoff opener on Saturday afternoon.
The Bucks hadn’t hosted a playoff game at Fiserv Forum in almost two years – their last home playoff game was May 23, 2019, when they lost Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Toronto Raptors. The Bucks were also facing the Miami Heat, the opponent that knocked out Milwaukee in the second round of last year’s playoffs in the NBA bubble.
Throw in that Milwaukee allowed 50% fan capacity at the arena for the first time this season, and the energy reached a fever pitch.
That buildup paid off for Bucks fans when Khris Middleton nailed a jumper with half a second left in overtime to send Milwaukee to a 109-107 over Miami in a tense Game 1 of their first-round series.
The roar emanating from the 9,107 fans after the buzzer was a long time coming.
“It was definitely great to hear and feel the crowd in there," Middleton said.
Middleton led the Bucks with 27 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo added 26 on 10-for-27 shooting to go along with 18 rebounds.
Both teams came out sloppy after almost a week off since the end of the regular season, combining for seven turnovers and 8-for-20 shooting in the first five minutes.
But the game settled into a back-and-forth affair down the stretch, showing why NBA pundits pointed to this series as one to watch in the Eastern Conference.
NBA playoff preview picks: Is Nets over Jazz a safe bet? Some of our experts think so
"There's just a lot of energy," Bucks center Brook Lopez said. "I think everyone's going out there wanting to feel it."
Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson, who had a quiet series against the Bucks last season, was a bright spot for the Heat. He made his first three 3-pointers to give Miami a 9-2 lead. He finished with 24 points, with all his field goals coming from beyond the 3-point line.
The Bucks missed their first eight attempts from long distance before Lopez nailed one. Milwaukee was just 5 for 31 (16%) on 3-pointers.
“We don’t need threes to win," Bucks guard Jrue Holiday said. "We do a little bit of everything. We do a lot of other things."
Holiday filled the box score with 20 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals. The 6-foot-3 guard's versatile presence is the biggest difference for the Bucks from last season's matchup with the Heat.
Holiday spearheaded a strong defensive effort. The Bucks made it especially tough for Heat stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, who combined to shoot 8 for 37.
“Showing crowds," Middleton said. "Contesting every shot. Trying not to foul. That’s what you have to do with those guys, they’re so great.
Butler was just 3 for 18 when he hit the game-tying basket just before the regulation buzzer, getting around Antetokounmpo to bounce a running shot off the glass.
"The ball’s going be in his hands a lot," Antetokounmpo said. "Going to make a lot plays. Going to shoot a lot. He draws a lot of attention and you got to be ready to go against him.”
Neither team could gain separation in overtime, until Lopez sank a free throw and Holiday chased down a long rebound and sprinted out for a layup that gave the Bucks a 107-104 lead with 39.3 seconds left.
But Miami's Goran Dragic hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock ticked down, setting the stage for Middleton's heroics as Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer opted to not use a timeout with 20.8 seconds remaining.
After getting a defensive switch, Middleton hit a tough, 19-foot fadeaway over Robinson. Butler couldn't get off a shot on Miami's possession, sending the Bucks fans at Fiserv Forum home ecstatic.
"To have Game 1 on our court in front of our people and feel their energy, it was really, really great to see," Budenholzer said. " A big step toward normalcy for our league and for our team. Hopefully we can just continue in that direction.”
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Khris Middleton overtime shot lifts Milwaukee Bucks over Miami Heat