Lately, it’s hard to find any upside to hosting the Heat.
Miami looks to stretch its road winning streak to 12 games Friday night as it opens a five-game trip that could leave it tied for the longest streak of success away from home in NBA history.
The Heat (28-9) began their run Dec. 2 in LeBron James’(notes) much-anticipated return to Cleveland, the beginning of an 11-game road streak that’s seen them shoot 50.5 percent and win by an average of 15.0 points.
They’ve also won 19 of 20 overall, a stretch of dominance Milwaukee (13-20) couldn’t end Tuesday in Miami. The Bucks led 51-47 at halftime, but the Heat held Milwaukee to just 38 second-half points en route to a 101-89 win.
“The players probably enjoyed some other games more,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But I think this was an important game. That’s a very physical team. They’re a very good defensive team. A lot of times when you play against them, it’s a grind-out game, and we had to play a different kind of game tonight, have some mental toughness and resiliency when things weren’t necessarily going our way.”
If the Heat can sweep their five-game trip that concludes Jan. 15 at Chicago, they’ll tie the 1971-72 Lakers for the longest road winning streak in league history at 16.
After watching the way Milwaukee played Tuesday, though, Wade isn’t about to look ahead .
“We see why this team has beaten some very good teams,” he said.
Orlando, the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas - twice - have been among Milwaukee’s victims since the beginning of December, but it couldn’t take down the Magic again a night after falling in Miami. The Bucks scored just 33 points in the first half and wound up shooting 39.3 percent in a 97-87 loss.
Milwaukee has lost four of five as it continues to play without the injured Brandon Jennings(notes), Carlos Delfino(notes) and Drew Gooden(notes). It’s shot under 40 percent in each defeat, and made just 15 of 32 free-throw attempts in Orlando.
“You have to give our guys credit for hanging in and trying to battle through it,” coach Scott Skiles said. “We finally started making some plays, but once you get to that point you have to make every free throw. You feel like you have to make every shot and against a team of their quality it’s very difficult to do.”
The Bucks’ ability to compete has been tied largely to their shooting percentage. When they’ve hit 45.0 percent or better from the field, they’re 9-2. Under that mark, they’re 4-18.
That’s bad news against the NBA’s best field-goal percentage defense. Miami is No. 1 in the league at defending both beyond the 3-point line (31.9 percent) and overall (42.3).
Milwaukee has shot 37.1 percent and averaged 83.5 points in two losses to the Heat this season.
James has had plenty of success at the Bradley Center, where two of his eight career 50-point games have come, but the Bucks can’t afford to let Wade dominate again.
Miami is 19-2 when Wade scores at least 25 points, and the former finals MVP has averaged an NBA-best 29.2 points on the road since Dec. 6.
James, though, is right behind him at 28.5 during that stretch.