Milwaukee 109, Miami 87

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MILWAUKEE (TICKER) Miami Heat rookie Caron Butler had a big game, but the Milwaukee Bucks got a big win.

The Bucks withstood 24 points from Wisconsin native Butler and cruised to a 109-87 victory over the Heat that moved them into a tie for the playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Butler, who hails from nearby Racine, was coming off a career-high 36 points Friday against Minnesota. He had another solid game, making 8-of-10 shots. But his teammates combined to shoot just 36 percent (24-of-67).

“It’s always fun coming home, getting to see my son and my mother,” Butler said. “It’s kind of disappointing, though, when we give a performance like this. We need to play together as a team and start to try to improve.”

Gary Payton scored 24 points for the Bucks (35-39), who moved into a tie with Washington for eighth place in the East. Washington visits Denver on Sunday night.

“We only have a couple of weeks left to the season, so we don’t have much room for error right now,” Bucks guard Michael Redd said. “Today was a step in the right direction. We just need to develop some sort of consistency. If we can play like this, things will work themselves out.”

Sam Cassell added 23 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. He shot 9-of-17 from the field and committed only two turnovers.

Toni Kukoc chipped in with 18 points and Redd 14 for the Bucks, who visit Miami on Monday night.

“I thought Toni had great energy,” Bucks coach George Karl said. “He seemed like he had a feel and a bounce, and made a lot of his shots early. We need him.”

Kukoc scored 15 points in the first half on 5-of-8 shooting.

Redd shot 4-of-7 from 3-point range. With 253 3-pointers in his career, Redd became eligible for the all-time 3-point shooting percentage list and stands third at 44.2 percent, behind Steve Kerr and Hubert Davis.

Milwaukee shot 9-of-17 from 3-point range and 51 percent (41-of-80) overall. The Bucks also made 18-of-20 free throws.

The Bucks led by as many as 25 points in the second quarter, but the Heat scored the last 10 points of the first half to get within 61-48 at the intermission. Mike James scored the final five points of the run.

James had 15 points and seven assists. Vladimir Stepania swept 10 boards for the Heat, who were outrebounded, 48-28.

“We did a good job tonight of rebounding, kicking it out and making shots,” said Payton, who made 11-of-15 shots. “That’s what got us the lead, and that’s what allowed us to keep the lead. We did what we were supposed to do when we got ahead. We kept playing hard and didn’t let up.”

Miami got within 76-67 late in the third quarter, but Milwaukee scored the final 10 points of the period. The Heat never got closer than 14 points the rest of the way.

“It was a lot of fun having the lead today,” Redd said. “That was the key, getting up big and riding it. … You gotta give us credit. We got ahead and kept them down.”

The Heat, who defeated Minnesota, 111-84, on Friday, have not won back-to-back games since a three-game winning streak December 27-January 1. They have lost 32 of 43 games since.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Miami
M. James M. James
6-10,  15 Pts
1 Rebs, 7 Assists
 Milwaukee
S. Cassell S. Cassell
9-17,  23 Pts
7 Rebs, 9 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists