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By Andrew Wagner, The Sports Xchange December 30, 2012 12:30 AM
MILWAUKEE -- Things looked bleak for the Milwaukee Bucks. After surrendering a 12-point halftime lead with a brutal start to the third quarter, the Bucks trailed Miami by nine, and it looked like the defending NBA champs were just finding their groove. But things changed quickly and six straight points to close out the third quarter turned into a 19-2 run and eventually a 104-85 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 18,717 at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Brandon Jennings led the way once again, scoring 25 points with seven assists and four steals. He was one of five Milwaukee players to score in double digits. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, Larry Sanders had 16 points and 11 rebounds -- his fourth consecutive double-digit rebound game -- and Monta Ellis had 14 points, nine assists and five steals. Mike Dunleavy came off the bench to score 18, 13 of which came in the fourth quarter, as Milwaukee went up by as many as 21 points and shot 52 percent from the field in the quarter. Dunleavy scored the first three points of the period, converting Beno Udrih's steal into a layup and drawing the foul from Dwyane Wade. Dunleavy hit the ensuing free throw to give the lead back to Milwaukee, and he put the Bucks up by eight with a three-pointer at the 8:06 mark to make it 81-73. "We just got going," Dunleavy said. "Got out in transition and moved the ball around. That was our game plan. To be able to bounce back like that, it's good. Hopefully we can build on that." Aside from a third-quarter run, Miami couldn't match the Bucks' energy. Turnovers hurt the Heat -- Milwaukee scored 25 points on 21 takeaways -- and Miami shot 43 percent from the field and was 4 of 13 on three-point attempts. "Milwaukee kicked our butt tonight," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "They were the better team tonight." LeBron James led the heat with 26 points -- 14 coming in the third quarter, when he hit 5 of 6 shots. Wade scored 24, going 10 of 19 from the field, while Chris Bosh pulled down 16 rebounds to go along with 12 points as the Heat lost for the second consecutive night. "We played pretty good defense," James said. "They shot (43.4) percent from the floor, but we turned the ball over 20-plus times and they got over 20 points off those turnovers. That's not going to be winning basketball. I had six turnovers and I can't stand when I turn the ball over. When you're on the road against a team that is sound defensively, you can't give them extra possessions because they're going to make you pay." Miami (20-7) was sloppy early, turning the ball over seven times in the first half and trailed 56-44. Miami erased the Bucks' 12-point halftime lead with an 11-0 run to open the second half and took the lead for the first time on James' tip-in at 6:03 to make it 60-58. Milwaukee missed its first 12 shots and shot just 20.1 percent (6 of 29) in the third quarter. Still, the Bucks managed to stay close and started their comeback run with seven consecutive points: a layup by Ersan Ilyasova, a 3-pointer by Monta Ellis and a jumper by Ekpe Udoh to close out the quarter down 71-69. NOTES: Miami's 85 points was the second-lowest total of the season. ... The Bucks were one of five teams to beat Miami multiple times last year, winning the season series 2-1. ... Heat guard Ray Allen played his first seven seasons in Milwaukee and still holds the franchise record for most 3-pointers (1,051) and is ninth on the Bucks' all-time scoring list with 9,861 points. "It goes really fast," said Allen, now in his 17th season. "I remember being here and being the young guy." ... James has scored at least 20 points in each of Miami's first 28 games. ... Wade, who played collegiately in Milwaukee for Marquette, is shooting 59 percent from the field in his last nine games. He returned to the lineup after serving a one-game suspension Friday in Detroit. ... Forward Udonis Haslem missed the game after taking a hard fall Friday in Detroit. Shane Battier made the start in Haslem's place. ... Milwaukee is 8-3 in its last 11 games and 14-6 against Eastern Conference opponents.