Under their new coach, the Bucks are 3-0 for the first time in four seasons and awash in optimism after an eventful offseason that is already bearing fruit.
“It’s a habit I think I enjoy in this team, not the fact that we get down but the fact they continue to compete and play hard,” Stotts said. “The confidence that we’ve gained here in the … three games, knowing that we have the ability to come back on teams, it does a lot for our team.
“Our team showed a lot of heart, a lot of character and it’s a nice way to start the season.”
Wade’s 21 points led the Heat, who blew a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter to the delight of the friendly crowd at the Bradley Center, where Wade led Marquette to the Final Four in 2003.
Wade misfired on three critical free throws in the final 34 seconds, helping the Bucks ice it.
Shaquille O’Neal, who sprained his right ankle Thursday night against Indiana, missed his first game of what is expected to be an absence of between two and four weeks.
The Heat turned to Alonzo Mourning to start at center, and he scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 34 minutes.
“I’ll never use Shaq being out as an excuse,” Mourning said. “I don’t think any of my teammates want to use it as an excuse. We know what we are capable of doing.”
“Obviously, yes, Shaq being in the game, it’s going to make our chances of winning a little bit better because he is the most talented player of all of us playing,” Mourning allowed. “But at the same time, we still had a chance to win.”
Mourning, who is in his second stint with the Heat after returning to basketball following a kidney operation, appeared to tire toward the end of the game, even as his coach managed his minutes carefully.
“I wouldn’t be a great player if I didn’t want to be out on the floor,” Mourning said. “I think people look at me as a transplant patient more than they look at me as a basketball player.”
In the closing minutes, Simmons went over Mourning for a crucial dunk that was the night’s highlight.
“I told him he can do something I can’t do and that’s dunk on ‘Zo,” Redd said. “The lane opened up like the Red Sea and he had great vision to go ahead and do that.”
Jason Williams added 18 points for Miami, including a 3-pointer that made it 103-100 with three seconds left, but Redd was fouled and sank both free throws before streamers and confetti filled the floor.
In his first regular-season game at the Bradley Center since bruising his spinal cord in a hard spill on Feb. 24, 2003, T.J. Ford scored 13 points and dished out 11 assists. Jamaal Magloire, acquired in a trade last week, added 14 points.
In addition to Shaq, Miami’s projected starting small forward James Posey is out with an injured thumb, reserve forward Shandon Anderson has been sidelined by back spasms and isn’t traveling with the team and backup center Michael Doleac hasn’t made his season debut yet because of an injured calf.
The Heat nevertheless built a 75-68 lead before Redd sank a 3-pointer from the top of the circle after tauntingly dribbling the ball through his legs while Gary Payton was guarding him, then made a nifty underhanded layup to pull Milwaukee to 75-73 heading into the fourth quarter.
Miami restored its cushion to as many as nine points early in the fourth before back-to-back baskets by Simmons pulled Milwaukee to 87-83 with six minutes left.
Ford tied it at 89 when he stole the ball from Wade and raced all the way for a layup with 4:23 left, and Simmons gave Milwaukee its first lead of the second half at 94-92 with a jumper from the left baseline with 2 1/2 minutes remaining, capping a 15-5 run.
“Our margin for error is not huge right now,” Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We’ve got a lot of people out.”
Stotts said he hopes to have F Joe Smith (knee) back Tuesday night against Golden State. … Although O’Neal made the trip with his team so that he could stay on a regimented rehab schedule, he wasn’t on the bench during the game or in the locker room before or after the game.