LeBron Presents Challenge for Luc in Playoff Series with Miami

The Milwaukee Bucks have been ticketed for the postseason for weeks, but they picked up an important final win on Wednesday to propel them into the postseason on a good note.

Milwaukee defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in the final game of the regular season to avoid going into the postseason on a six-game losing streak.

But losing seven of their last 10 games to finish the season at 38-44 has done the Bucks no favors as they draw the defending champion Miami Heat in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Miami enters the postseason with the best record in the NBA (66-16).

Luc will be an important piece to the series against the Heat for the Bucks (Getty Images).

One of the keys to the matchup will be the health of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and how well he fares defensively against the man he will be tasked with guarding for much of this round, Heat star LeBron James.

« We need Luc for obvious reasons, » Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. « Luc has had a tough year. So to think he’s going to suddenly in a couple days come back to what he was, is unrealistic. But that being said, he’s still capable of being a factor defensively against a variety of players. To have him back feeling good is a key for us. »

Luc’s season was hampered by injuries as he fought back from off-season knee surgery, which forced him to miss the first 14 games of the season. He missed another eight games in March due to turf toe. Now he must prepare for the toughest challenge any team is going to see in the first round of the Playoffs while battle illness.

« The last couple days I’ve been really under the weather, » Luc said. « I don’t know where it’s coming from. I saw the team doctor on Monday and he said it was a virus. He gave me some medicine for my sinus and all that stuff. »

Luc said that being as healthy as he can be will be half the battle when the Bucks tip-off against the Heat for the first game of the series on Sunday evening.

« He’s had a long, hard year. That knee injury, the surgery (in the) off-season. Sometimes that particular injury takes you a long time to fully recover from,” Boylan noted. “You certainly get well enough to play. But with that injury it takes a bit of time. »

James comes into the playoffs as the fourth leading scorer in the NBA this season with 26.8 points per game. He also posted the league’s fifth best shooting percentage for the season at 56.5 percent. The Miami star has been remarkably consistent against the Bucks this year, posting 2 double-doubles against Milwaukee in the four meetings between the two teams.

He averaged 27.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists in those four games, while shooting above 50 percent from the field in any of those games. The Heat won three of the four meetings.

Luc has had success in slowing LeBron down in previous seasons, most notably around the rim. James has a 20 percent lower shooting percentage in the restricted area of the paint when he facing off against Luc (52.1 percent). Against other defenders in that area of the court, he averages 72.7 percent. LeBron also commits 25 percent more turnovers when he shares the court with Luc.

Despite Luc’s past success against James, he and the Bucks realize that Miami’s Big Three are going to be tough to defend. The last time Milwaukee faced the Heat with James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh all on the court together, LeBron and Bosh each scored 28 points while Wade scored 20 and dished out nines assists on the way to a 13-point Miami victory.

« By the process of elimination you can conclude that Monta (Ellis) is going to be guarding Dwyane Wade, » Boylan said of lining up his defense against Miami. « It’s a challenge. These guys are really good. They’re world champions. Dwyane Wade has won multiple NBA championships. LeBron is going to win multiple NBA championships before it’s all over. Let’s not forget Chris Bosh and Ray Allen and all the other guys, too. Shane Battier. They present a large, large number of problems. »

The one game this season where the Bucks were able to beat the Heat on December 29th, they were able to coax poor shots from Bosh (5-for-14) and Allen (1-for-6). Taking away James and Wade and forcing the other members of Miami to beat them could be a key to success for Milwaukee. However, Luc knows it won’t be easy, particularly in the playoffs.

« It’s the playoffs, and everything is higher, » Luc said. « They’re going to come out ready to play and try to impose their will on us. So we’ve just got to compete. »

Though the Heat are favored in the series, Milwaukee is confident in its approach to the series (Getty Images).

Miami has advanced to the NBA Finals each of the past two seasons including a NBA championship last year. In the process, the Heat have won their first round match-up in just 5 games. This is the first postseason for the Bucks in three years and much of the roster has limited if any playoff experience. The only time they made the postseason in Luc’s career, they were ousted by Atlanta in a seven-game battle in 2010.

But Luc said that’s no reason to throw in the towel. He used an example from his favorite sport to watch to illustrate his point.

« We’ve seen Barcelona lose, » Luc said when asked about the Bucks’ chances of upsetting Miami. « Even the great Barcelona lost against (AC) Milan, so you never know, you never know. »

The Bucks and the Heat tip-off their first round of the 2013 playoff series on Sunday in Miami at 6 p.m CDT and the game can be seen on TNT.