Reserves picking up slack as Heat roll

As the Heat deal with ailments to the Big Three, the less heralded players are stepping up.

MIAMI — Thanks to a season full of quips, Shane Battier was honored Tuesday with the Magic Johnson Award by the Pro Basketball Writers Association. It’s essentially the NBA’s MVP award for interviews.
Helping the Miami forward in recent weeks was having called the depleted Heat “The Fighting Clowns’’ for their courageous performance in March 31 win at San Antonio. He also called that team, then playing without stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, “The Replacements.’’
Well, Battier actually might have a challenger in the Heat locker room when it comes to describing an undermanned team.

We give you guard Mike Miller.
“It’s great, obviously,’’ Miller said of the Heat beating Milwaukee 94-83 Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena without stars Wade and Chris Bosh and with James playing just 30 minutes. “If you can win games and allow our main guys to get rest, we’re doing our job as the 'Garbage Pail Kids.'’’
Ladies and gentleman, please tip your servers.
There have been quips aplenty when it comes to Heat players this season making less than $17 million. Battier also has called them “The Other Guys.’’ Forward Juwan Howard has dubbed them “The Little 12.’’
Whatever name they go by, the Heat understudies keep stepping up. Miami has had just one member of the Big Three in each of the past five games, and it has gone 4-1.
There was plenty of talk from the Bucks before Tuesday’s game about how well they match up with the Heat, their likely first-round playoff foe. Coming in, Milwaukee had won four of the past seven in the series.
There wasn’t much to say, though, after the depleted Heat (61-16) manhandled a Bucks outfit at full strength to tie their team record for victories in a season.
“It was not the best result for the Bucks,’’ forward Mike Dunleavy said.
No, it wasn’t. Following guard Brandon Jennings' game-high 30 points, nobody else on Milwaukee (37-40) scored more than eight.
Yes, James had a typical banner night for the Heat with 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. But the Bucks watched as Udonis Haslem grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds, nearly triple his average, and Chris Andersen pulled down nine boards in 22 reserve minutes. The Heat might have shot just 8 of 35 (22.9 percent) on 3-pointers, but made due inside the arc, shooting 43.2 percent.
The game sure didn’t start out well for the Bucks. Milwaukee center Larry Sanders is 6-foot-11 with long arms and is being touted for postseason awards. But he wasn't even able to win the jump ball against the 6-8 Battier, who couldn’t leap over the latest issue of TV Guide.
With center Bosh out due to the flu (Wade missed a fifth straight game due to a sore knee), the Heat needed somebody to open the game in the jump circle.
“(Haslem) asked me if I wanted to do it and I told him, 'I’m going to pass,’’’ James said. “I told (guard Mario Chalmers) to go jump. He was like, ‘Of course.’ He will do anything. He’s crazy and confident. But Shane took over and he won it. That was awesome.’’
Battier actually did win a jump ball earlier this season. But even he was bewildered at having gotten the best of Sanders.
“It’s timing,’’ Battier said. “But to do it against Larry Sanders is pretty good . . . At my funeral they will play that (highlight) as part of the eulogy.’’
There were plenty of other other highlights for the Heat on Tuesday. In the fourth quarter, Andersen drilled the third 3-pointer of his 11-year career (in 25 attempts) and first since 2009. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and teammates stressed that Andersen actually has been working on that shot in practice and he isn’t too bad at it.
James had the play of the night. In the first quarter, he went up with the ball in his right hand before switching it to his left. He then passed off the backboard to himself for a dunk.
“I had to make an in-flight adjustment,’’ said James, who originally was going to pass to Miller before his lane was blocked by Bucks guard Monta Ellis.
The Heat have continued to make plenty of adjustments since their 27-game winning streak ended two weeks ago. But they continue to win.
The team’s stars are resting for the playoffs, with James having missed three of the past five games and Bosh two of the past five in addition to Wade sitting out all of them. But the Heat continue to reach milestones during this historic season.
Miami on Tuesday tied a victory record that the 1996-97 Heat team put up during a 61-21 campaign. The Heat can break it Wednesday at Washington while also being able to clinch the No. 1 overall playoff seed in the NBA.
“Anytime throughout the process when you’re able to have a milestone on the way, it means a lot to us as a team, for us as a franchise,’’ James said. "We're very happy and privileged and honored to be able to tie the (team) record.''

It’s not out of the question the Heat will go for the record without any members of the Big Three. Bosh was not expected to make the trip to Washington. While Wade was scheduled to travel, he is a game-time decision. And there’s no guarantee Miami will use James on the second game of a back-to-back situation after he had missed his three recent games due to a hamstring strain.
The Heat haven’t had a game this season in which no members of the Big Three have played. If they have one Wednesday and win, no doubt somebody will come up with another nickname for the leftovers.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at or on Twitter @christomasson

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