LeBron James and the Miami Heat served up a taste of what the
Milwaukee Bucks may be facing in a first-round Eastern Conference playoff
But it was just a taste.
The Heat did it without the help of stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who will be back in the starting lineup when the playoffs open in 10 days.
It was a sobering moment for the Bucks as James took over in the third quarter and led the Heat to a relatively easy 94-83 victory on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
"He's on a different planet right now," Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy said of James, who finished with 28 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. "He's got complete control of the game when he wants it.
"He's tough to stop but you've got to give it to the guy. He trusts his teammates. Guys miss shots, three or four in a row, and he keeps coming to them. Eventually those guys knock it down."
James scored the Heat's first nine points of the third quarter before making perfect passes to Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers for three-pointers.
Just like that, the Heat's lead mushroomed from one point at halftime to 62-51 with 5 minutes 4 seconds left in the third quarter.
"That's what he does," Dunleavy said. "That's why he's the MVP."
The Bucks (37-40) didn't help themselves by letting the Heat dominate the rebounding battle and by committing 20 turnovers in a particularly sloppy display.
The Heat outrebounded the Bucks, 49-37, and grabbed 14 offensive boards. And the 20 Bucks turnovers led to 20 Miami points.
"They're a team that usually takes those turnovers and turns them into quick points," said Bucks coach Jim Boylan. "You get LeBron barreling down at you and spot-up three-point shooters on the perimeter.
"When we play them, we've got to take care of the basketball and we didn't do a good job of that tonight."
Miami (61-16) tied a franchise record for victories, equaling the 61 posted by the 1996-'97 team featuring Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway.
The Heat shot just 23% from three-point range (8 of 35) but made up for it by rebounding so well.
Udonis Haslem pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds, including five on the offensive end, and added 10 points.
"UD has always proven himself under the most pressure situations, particularly in the playoffs," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "He'll be there for you."
Miami also got significant help from its bench as Ray Allen and Norris Cole each had 11 points and Chris Andersen just missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
Andersen (the Birdman) sank only the third three-pointer of his career to stretch the Heat's lead to 18 points in the fourth quarter.
Brandon Jennings led the Bucks with 30 points on 10-of-16 shooting, including 4 of 9 from three-point range.
But there was little to make the Bucks think they can be competitive in a first-round matchup against the Heat.
Eighth-seeded Milwaukee trails seventh-seeded Boston by three games with five to play, so the odds are very high that the Bucks will face the Heat when the playoffs open next weekend. The Heat already has clinched the top-seeded position.
"You've got a lot of things to worry about if you face them later," Dunleavy said. "Where do you start?
"They didn't have two of their three main guys. We didn't play very well. They probably would say they didn't play very well. They still won by a lot. Not the best result for the Bucks."
Boylan decided to give some rest to starters Monta Ellis and Ersan Ilyasova, choosing not to play them in the fourth quarter.
The Bucks play the second game in a back-to-back set at Orlando on Wednesday night.
Ellis finished with eight points but had six turnovers, while Ilyasova had four points in 21 minutes.
"Monta has had a few issues he's been dealing with physically," Boylan said. "We weren't able to get anything significant going, so I figured the best way to handle it was just to keep him on the bench. If we did make something happen, maybe I could get him back in. But it never got to that point.
"It didn't seem like the wise thing to do, to get him back in the game right then and there.
"The same thing with Ers. He's been under the weather the last two or three days, not feeling so great. He was playing hard, like he always does.
"I felt we were better off resting these guys and regrouping for tomorrow (Wednesday)."
(c)2013 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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