The Miami Heat are playing well enough to start thinking about securing home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
They’ll try to extend their latest winning streak to nine games and complete a season sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Miami is on its third winning streak of at least seven games this season. The Heat had a franchise-record 14-game run from Dec. 6-Jan. 1.
With a nine-game lead on Detroit—their closest pursuer in the Eastern Conference, the Heat have hopes of catching Phoenix and San Antonio for the best record in the NBA. Those clubs were percentage points ahead of the Heat (48-16) entering play Sunday with identical 47-15 records.
Miami, which is 33-6 against East opponents, extended its home winning streak to 12 games with a 90-65 win over New Jersey on Saturday. The Heat used a strong third quarter, outscoring the Nets 33-16 to take command.
“We came together in the third quarter,” Miami guard Eddie Jones said. “We huddled up and said, ‘Let’s step it up.”’
The Heat turned in one of their best defensive performances of the season, holding the Nets to 29.7 percent shooting. They yielded just 26 points after halftime.
“We just kept packing it in,” center Shaquille O’Neal said. “Teams are going to have to shoot really well from outside to beat us.”
Miami can sweep the season series from Milwaukee for the first time since 1996-97.
The Bucks dropped their second straight with a 111-107 setback at New Orleans on Saturday. Michael Redd scored 29 points for Milwaukee, which allowed the Hornets to place seven players in double figures.
The third quarter proved to be pivotal as Milwaukee came out sluggish after the break and surrendered 33 points in the period.
“We played poorly tonight overall and still … had a chance to win the game,” Redd said. “We just need to dig in and grind a little more and come out with more firepower in the third.”
Redd is averaging 23.3 points while shooting over 47 percent against Miami this season.
The Bucks have been competitive in three losses to the Heat this season, falling short by a total of 14 points.