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James scores 33 as Heat roll past Bucks

The SportsXchange

MIAMI - If you are a Miami Heat fan, you can release your fingers from the proverbial panic button.

Heat forward LeBron James finally seems recovered from a nagging back injury, the Heat's defense seemed more focused, and Miami outrebounded an opponent for the first time all season.

The result was an easy 118-95 victory over the injury-plagued Milwaukee Bucks Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

"I told (point guard Mario Chalmers), I'm getting back - I'm almost there," James said after the Heat improved to 5-3, bouncing back from a stunning home loss to the Boston Celtics on Saturday.

"I feel my spring starting to get back. My back is feeling better. Once I told him that, he said: 'Alright, I can start throwing it to you anyway I want.'"

James scored 33 points - two off his season high - while another one of the world's most famous athletes was watching court-side. That would be Brazilian soccer star Neymar, who will lead his national team against Honduras in a Miami friendly on Saturday.

James scored 17 points in the third quarter, when the Heat took an 85-62 lead. The Heat had led 56-45 at halftime and 32-23 after one quarter.

"LeBron made some big shots, made some big drives - he got away from us in the third quarter," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "And we turned it over way too many times (18)."

It was a season-high point total for Miami, which shot 58 percent from the field. James played a big role in the shooting percentage, making 13 of 21, including 4 of 7 on 3-pointers.

"He looked explosive tonight," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He was able to go through the practice (Monday) full scale. And even in the Boston game, he had already started to loosen up."

James was asked about his mind-set heading into Tuesday's third quarter.

"Don't wait around," James said. "I tried to push it and see if I had a good hang going, and I did."

James' explosive performance overshadowed a quiet night by Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who was held to eight points in 31 minutes, making 4 of 7 shots without going to the foul line. That snapped his streak of 67 straight games in which he had scored in double figures.

Chalmers was among the Heat players who picked up the slack. He made all four of his shots in the first half and finished with 15 points.

Forward Michael Beasley also contributed, scoring 19 points off the bench.

"I got Beas under my wing," James said of Beasley, who made 8 of 12 shots, including 2 of 3 on three-pointers. "I want him to succeed so much. It was great to see him come out here and perform the way he did tonight.

"The more confidence (Spoelstra) gives him, and the more confidence we give him, he is going to perform. He is a hell of a talent. We all know that. And I'm going to continue to stay on him."

The Bucks (2-4), who were held to 42 percent shooting by the revived Heat defense, lost their second game in a row.

This was the first Miami-Milwaukee matchup since the first round of last season's playoffs, when the Heat swept the Bucks in four games.

But the Bucks revised their lineup extensively since then, bringing in Drew and 11 new players.

One of the newcomers is guard Brandon Knight, a guard who played his high school ball locally at Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest. He scored six points off the bench in his second game back from an ankle injury.

Another Bucks newcomer is rookie second-round pick Nate Wolters, a point guard who entered Tuesday leading the NBA with 6.2 assists per turnover. On Tuesday, he had nine points, three assists and no turnovers.

Injuries have crippled the Bucks so far this season. In fact, forward Caron Butler is the only Bucks player who has started every game this season. He had 10 points Tuesday night.

Butler was a Heat lottery pick in 2002 and played two years for the franchise before being part of the trade that brought Shaquille O'Neal.

Forward John Henson led the Bucks with a season-high 18 points, and guard Gary Neal also scored 18 points.

Bucks guard O.J. Mayo, who was held to six points, said he hopes better days are ahead for the team.

"We're down, man - injuries," he said. "We've got to get healthy and give ourselves a chance."

NOTES: The Heat played without G Ray Allen (illness). ... Heat F Shane Battier started his second straight game in place of injured F Udonis Haslem (back spasms). ... Bucks F Ersan Ilyanova (sore ankle) did not make the three-game road trip that also includes games at Orlando and Indiana. ... The Ilyanova injury comes on the heels of Monday's news that C Larry Sanders will miss at least six weeks due to surgery on his right thumb after an incident at a night club. ... Bucks G Luke Ridnour (back injury) is still out but might be nearing a return. ... Bucks G Carlos Delfino (foot surgery) suffered a setback in his recovery and will miss four to six months.
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