Heat-Bucks Preview


The Miami Heat are the hottest team in the NBA, winning five straight and eight of nine. The lone defeat was a surprise, but another one to the Milwaukee Bucks might not be considered so shocking.

The Heat look to avenge their only loss of the past two weeks as they visit the improving Bucks on Wednesday night.

Since a three-game skid Jan. 10-13, Miami (16-5) has not been defeated other than a 91-82 home loss to Milwaukee on Jan. 22. The Bucks entered that game with a 5-9 record and only one road win, while Miami had been 11-4 with one home loss.

That victory is part of the current 5-2 stretch by the Bucks, with the only losses coming by a combined 12 points to two of the league's top teams - Atlanta and Chicago.

"We're just rolling right now," said Brandon Jennings, averaging 23.5 points in the past eight games. "We've just got to keep the team spirit and just keep everything positive. ... I think we should be above .500."

Milwaukee (9-11) is the only team to win two regular-season games against the Heat in the past 11 months. The Bucks won in Miami on April 6 before taking this season's only meeting, but Dwyane Wade didn't play either time.

Wade has played three games since being sidelined by a sprained ankle and keyed Monday's 109-95 win over New Orleans. He scored 15 of his 22 points in the second quarter, when Miami came from 12 down to take the lead for good.

"When a guy like D-Wade has a rhythm, you've got to keep feeding him," said LeBron James, who was two assists shy of a triple-double. "He brought us back."

This time, it's the Bucks who could be without one of their top players, though it would appear to be by choice. After Stephen Jackson missed Saturday's win over the Lakers due to a one-game league suspension, coach Scott Skiles opted to keep his second-leading scorer out of Monday's 103-82 victory over Detroit.

"I liked the way we've played the past couple games," Skiles explained. "He'll have an opportunity to work himself back in there."

Jackson's 3-pointers to end the third quarter and start the fourth put Milwaukee in control of the last matchup with Miami, which followed his one-game benching for sleeping through a shootaround.

The 12-year veteran was very understanding of this decision by Skiles.

"You know what? For the most part, Scott is right," he said. "We are playing well without me in the lineup but it's all good. It's all about winning."

The turnover battle could be key Wednesday. Miami forces 18.0 per game to lead the Eastern Conference, and Milwaukee ranks third at 16.7.

The Heat are 11-0 when committing 15 turnovers or fewer. They had 22 in the loss to Milwaukee and have averaged 12.9 in their last eight wins.

"I think we're doing a much better job of taking care of the basketball," said Chris Bosh, who has six turnovers in the past five games after giving it away eight times against Milwaukee.

While Miami has held the opposition under 100 points in nine consecutive games, the Bucks have scored at least 100 in four straight.

Milwaukee's Drew Gooden has averaged 20.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in three games since joining the starting lineup to replace Andrew Bogut, who is out eight to 12 weeks with a fractured ankle.

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