Milwaukee Bucks at Miami Heat game preview
For the first time in nearly two weeks, the Miami Heat are home.
It’s a brief stopover.
A six-game trip ended with a blowout defeat at Oklahoma City on Sunday night, and a one-game homestand – the Heat host Milwaukee on Tuesday – is all the Heat get before embarking on another long trip.
They’ll be in Miami less than 48 hours before heading out again, hardly enough time to solve all the injury and illness problems that are decimating the roster right now.
"We’re dealing with a lot," coach Erik Spoelstra said, adding, "Welcome to the NBA in January."
January for the Heat has been particularly daunting.
When the schedule came out, this looked to be a challenging time for Miami. The Heat played 23 of their first 35 games at home and are paying for that now with a stretch where 11 out of 12 will be on the road.
And then there’s the health issues: The Heat were missing five players when the game at Oklahoma City started, lost another before it ended, and it’s likely Miami won’t be at full strength again Tuesday.
"We’ve got guys out," forward Chris Bosh said. "It really sucks but you know the game goes on. We’re still going to compete. We’re going to show up and we’re going to try to win games. … We’re scrambling trying to put it together right now. So we just hope that guys can get healthy.
"It’s particularly tough at this part of the year with this road trip that we’re in now. We just have to stick with it and figure these things out."
That, and re-pack.
Miami (23-18) arrived home at 1:36 a.m. Monday from Oklahoma City, with no practice scheduled for the day but plenty of training room visits most assuredly happening. The Heat play Tuesday, then are scheduled to fly to Washington later that night to start another five-game swing.
"Everybody’s going through something," guard Dwyane Wade said Sunday after Miami’s fifth loss in its last seven games.
Miami has used five different starting lineups in its last five, with some instance of a new malady popping up about every day on this just-completed trip.
Starting point guard Goran Dragic was sent home early because of a strained left calf. His replacement was Beno Udrih, who then was scratched Sunday with a sore neck. Josh McRoberts’ knee pain has sidelined him for six weeks, Chris Andersen returned to Miami early because of a bone bruise, Jarnell Stokes has been sick and Gerald Green left the Thunder game early because knee tendinitis was flaring up.
And some of the guys playing are not 100 percent: Wade couldn’t play Friday and returned to the lineup Sunday with tape on both shoulders, Tyler Johnson also has shoulder issues and Hassan Whiteside has been dealing with knee soreness.
"Thankfully nothing is really serious, but we do have some things that we have to treat and rest," Spoelstra said.
The Bucks (18-25) have had two days off after finishing a stretch of four games in five nights, and by the end of it the Eastern Conference’s 13th-place team somehow looked fresher.
Milwaukee won three times during that grueling stretch against East teams above it after rallying past Atlanta 108-101 in overtime on Friday and winning 105-92 at Charlotte the next night.
"It’s a tremendous win," interim coach Joe Prunty said after Saturday’s victory. "It’s a tremendous, gutty win by everybody. But it’s the NBA. So we’re proud of the guys, but we have to do it again."
The Bucks had no problems doing that against the Heat in 2014-15, sweeping the four-game season series. They outrebounded Miami by 11.3 per game and held a 10-points-per- game edge in the paint.
Khris Middleton shot 50 percent from the field in those wins, and he’s been the key to Milwaukee’s recent surge. He’s put up at least 24 points in his last three games, just a tick shy of his average (24.1) while shooting 51.3 percent in his last 11.
"I’ve been in a rhythm," Middleton said. "Coaches and the guys are letting me play with the ball in my hands more, and allow me to make plays for them. They trust me to try to make the right play for the team."
The Bucks have outrebounded their last three opponents 153-108 after coming into that stretch 26th in the league in rebound differential at minus-3.6.