MILWAUKEE (AP)—A four-game, five-night road trip is the perfect way for Miami Heat coach Pat Riley to bond with his new team.
Even if that means getting stuck with the occasional lunch bill.
“It’s almost like a blessing in disguise to get on the road because it’s a better challenge and we can get away from all the distractions in Miami,” Riley said.
Though all that bonding could get costly, as Riley found out when he ate lunch with a few of his players earlier in the day.
“I paid my bill and I went up to the room and got a telephone call from the waitress,” Riley said smiling and declining to name the culprits. “They’re all pretty cheap guys to stiff a waitress.”
Wade and Payton exposed Milwaukee’s lack of perimeter defense, combining to go 17-for-26 from the field.
“Dwyane went after mismatches,” Payton said. “He posted me up a lot. He spotted up and hit a couple of 3s. That’s all we did—play the mismatches.”
Ford was forced to play every minute except the final one, and the lack of depth showed in Milwaukee’s shooting.
Leading the league with a 43 percent clip from 3-point range, the Bucks missed their first 12 before Redd hit with 3:07 left in the third quarter to cut Miami’s lead to 66-59.
“We try to live by that,” Redd said of the 3s.
But the Bucks couldn’t.
Milwaukee, which also didn’t have shooting guard Bobby Simmons (shoulder) due to an injury, finished 3-for-21 from behind the arc and failed to showcase the speed its used on a three-game winning streak.
“We got a break tonight. Bobby Simmons is a great player—Mo Williams— those two guys would have created a lot of problems for us,” Riley said. “The thing about a speed team, if you can see them walking up and down the court, you’ve done something.”
Payton’s 3-pointer midway through the third gave Miami a 61-50 lead, and Antoine Walker extended it to 82-68 with 8:28 left in the fourth when Wade whipped a behind the back pass for the layup.
Milwaukee never got closer than eight in the fourth as Payton found Wade on a backdoor cut for another easy basket to make it 93-80 with 3:07 left.
“We knocked it down to eight or nine points, but that was it,” Redd said. “They hit shots and we couldn’t.”
Shaquille O’Neal, who playfully tossed snowballs before entering the arena in his third game back from injury, finished with 13 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes. He was saddled with early foul trouble, including two on back-to-back trips down the floor in the first quarter, in his second game back after missing 18 with a sprained ankle.
“I was too aggressive and committed too many silly fouls,” O’Neal said. “Everybody else stepped up and played well.”
O’Neal was quickly replaced with Alonzo Mourning, who blocked three shots in his first five minutes, matching his league-leading average. Mourning finished with four blocks.
The Bucks didn’t look like they were going to be an easy opponent early, jumping out to a double-digit lead during a 13-0 first-quarter run.
It wouldn’t last.
Riley, who won 100-97 over Chicago on Tuesday night in his return to the bench, looked disgusted with his team’s play in the first quarter and threw his hands up after a quick whistle against Mourning.
Riley said before the game he’s learned to be more patient and that some of his more well-known habits—like four-hour shootarounds—aren’t likely to happen anymore.
“It’s him,” Payton said of the team’s play the last two nights. “He brought his system here, and he wanted us to run. Most of the guys on this team want to run.”
Milwaukee is now 10-2 against Eastern Conference opponents. … Williams and Simmons are day-to-day. .. During introductions, Walker and Mourning were announced as starters instead of actual starters James Posey and O’Neal. … Riley calls O’Neal and Mourning a two-headed center and referred to them in pre-game as “SoZo.” … Bucks G Charlie Bell will be out six to eight weeks with a sprained MCL in his right knee that occurred Monday.