Bucks-Heat Preview

The Associated Press

With only one game over a five-day stretch, LeBron James is hoping some rest is enough to shake off his nagging back problem.

Following a rare home loss, the Miami Heat might not need James to be at his best Tuesday night to take care of a short-handed Milwaukee Bucks team which they swept in the first round of the playoffs.

James has played in all of Miami's games and done so at a high level despite his discomfort, though he reiterated his frustration concerning the persistent lower back soreness following a 111-110 loss to Boston on Saturday.

"I'm not 100 percent; my back is not where I want it to be," said James, who had been questionable for the game. "But I could still be effective. I thought I was (against the Celtics). I just didn't make enough plays to help us win."

James, however, finished with a game-high 25 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. He went 9 for 13 from the field and is shooting 61.7 percent over the last four games.

The rebuilding Celtics handed the two-time defending champions only their fifth loss in 46 regular-season home games when Jeff Green hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer over James' outstretched hands. Miami (4-3) hasn't suffered back-to-back home losses since the 2010-11 season.

Now James is hoping to benefit from two days off before the Heat take the court against Milwaukee, and he'll get two more after this matchup before facing Dallas on Friday to close a four-game homestand.

The four-time MVP averaged 24.5 points on 62.7 percent shooting in Miami's first-round sweep of the Bucks in April. Dwyane Wade sat out the clincher after averaging just 13.7 points in the first three games, and Chris Bosh averaged just 12.8 for the series, but the Heat still won each game by double digits.

Including that sweep, the Bucks (2-3) have dropped six straight and eight of nine to Miami, and they enter this season's first meeting banged-up.

Frontcourt starters Larry Sanders (thumb) and Ersan Ilyasova (ankle) have missed the last two games, and though Ilyasova's status is uncertain for Tuesday, Sanders will be out for a while. The Bucks announced Monday that he'll miss approximately six weeks after having surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb sustained in a Nov. 3 fight at a nightclub.

Sanders had 16 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in Milwaukee's only win over Miami last season.

Guard Luke Ridnour remains out with back spasms and there is no specific timeline for his return.

The Bucks have alternated wins and losses through their first five games. They shot a season-high 50.0 percent from the field in Wednesday's 109-104 win over Cleveland before hitting a season-worst 38.3 percent in Saturday's 91-83 home loss to Dallas.

Milwaukee was down by 18 points early in the second half Saturday and could get no closer than three after that. The Bucks trailed by a combined 41 points at the half in their two road games.

"I'm tired of playing comeback basketball," coach Larry Drew said. "I really am. It just takes too much out of you."

Though they're averaging just 94.0 points, the Bucks have gone 24 for 46 from 3-point range over their last two games and rank near the top of the league at 43.8 percent on the season.

O.J. Mayo has emerged as Milwaukee's leading scorer, averaging a career-best 18.6 points after totaling 56 with 10 3-pointers in his last two games. He scored 30 in his last trip to Miami while with Dallas last season.

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