MILWAUKEE — If the Milwaukee Bucks are going to snap Miami’s 20-game winning streak Friday night, they are going to have to do it without one of their best defensive players.
Small forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will miss his third straight game with turf toe, hampering Milwaukee’s ability to guard LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Slowing James and Wade is hard for anybody to do, but Mbah a Moute has toughly defended both in the past. Without him in the lineup, the Bucks are expected to start Marquis Daniels at small forward instead of Mike Dunleavy to better match up defensively.
“Luc is a good matchup for a lot of different players that Miami has, so missing him, it hurts us,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said at Friday’s shootaround. “Unfortunately, he just can’t go tonight.”
Snapping Miami’s 20-game win streak would certainly thrust the Bucks into the national spotlight, but Milwaukee knows a win Friday night means much more than ending the streak that’s tied for third-longest in NBA history.
The Bucks have lost two straight games and are trying to move up in the Eastern Conference standings.
“For us, it’s a game that’s important to us on a lot of different levels,” Boylan said. “We are approaching it in that matter. The streak part of it is a secondary thing for us. We’re more concerned about our position in the playoff race and securing a spot.”
Many have labeled Friday as Miami’s biggest obstacle on its way to breaking the NBA record for longest winning streak, held by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers at 33 games. The Bucks are 4-5 against Miami since James, Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces two seasons ago, and Milwaukee has won two of the past three meetings at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The Bucks beat Miami in Milwaukee by 19 points on Dec. 19 and took the Heat to overtime on the road in November.
“It’s not just about the streak, it’s more than that,” Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings said. “This is a team we could see in the first round of the playoffs, so it means more than just trying to break a streak. It means just to try to send a message to them that if we are in the eighth spot still this is something they are going to have to deal with.”
That said, the Bucks still would take pride in being the ones to stop Miami’s pursuit of history. A win Friday would move the Heat past the 1970-71 Bucks’ 20-game winning streak, and Milwaukee was the team that ended the Lakers’ 33-game streak in Milwaukee in 1972.
“The fact that the whole world is going to be watching tonight and the whole world is going to be watching every game they play from here on out,” Jennings said of what a win Friday would mean. “To be realistic, they have always had trouble coming in here and playing. This would be a good time for us to get back on a roll, get our confidence up and get back on a winning streak.”
When told Jennings said he thinks the Bucks match up well against the Heat in what could be a playoffs preview, Boylan put things in perspective.
“Brandon’s young,” Boylan said. “Miami, I believe they won the championship last year. I believe we should try to get as high as we can in the playoffs, as far as the seeding goes. If we play Miami, we play Miami and we’ll compete and we’ll play hard.”