Larry Sanders leaned over to LeBron James at one point in Miami
and said, ”We’re here.”
But for how long?
Sanders and the Milwaukee Bucks limped home down 0-2 to the
Miami Heat after blowing a chance to steal a game from the
defending champions Tuesday night. Lose again Thursday night in
front of a favorable home crowd, and the series – and Milwaukee’s
season – may as well be over. No team has ever rallied from an 0-3
deficit to win a best-of-seven series in the NBA playoffs.
”We’ve got to accept the challenge right out of the gate
tomorrow,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said after Wednesday’s practice.
”It’s Game 3, we know they’re going to come in thinking, `Let’s
see if we can take their will away.”’
The Bucks have never won a series after losing the first two
games. The Heat, meanwhile, have never lost a series in which they
had a 2-0 lead.
”We haven’t done anything yet,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra
cautioned. ”We did what we’re supposed to do. We held home court.
Playoffs don’t start until either team wins on the other court. And
this will be a desperate, competitive response from them, trying to
defend their home court. And we have to find a way to steal one, go
in there and take control of the series.
”There’s nothing wrong with us coming in there with an
incredible amount of desperation as well,” he added. ”Our guys
have experience to know what we’ll be facing. It’ll be a tough
environment. And that’s why we’re bracing ourselves for this
competition tomorrow night.”
That the Heat lead the series is hardly a surprise.
They’re the NBA’s dominant team, after all, winners of a
staggering 39 of their last 41 games, including the last 10. Their
roster is so loaded even defensive gurus can’t find a way to shut
everyone down, with Chris Andersen causing almost as many problems
in the first two games as James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
”It’s a lot coming at you,” Sanders said. ”Their roster is
very dynamic. That’s when you have to make the second and third
And not lose focus.
The Heat led by just three going into the fourth quarter Tuesday
night, only to erupt for 12 straight points in a 2:22 span that put
the game out of reach. If that looked familiar, well, it was.
Dating back to the regular season, Miami has used big runs to
put away the Bucks several times. Like on March 15, when the Heat
doubled what had been an eight-point lead with a 13-5 run in a span
of 2:26 late in the third quarter. The Heat went on to win that one
107-94. Or on April 9, when Miami held the Bucks without a field
goal for 6:58 in the third quarter on its way to a 94-83 win.
Even in Game 1, when the Heat used a 7-0 run over the last 1:53
in the third quarter to turn an eight-point lead into 15.
”We seem to have a stretch of about four, five, six minutes
where they kind of get away from us,” Boylan said. ”We have to
figure out how to keep that from happening and keep ourselves in
Added Monta Ellis, ”The NBA is all about runs, so we know
they’re going to make a run. We’ve just got to be ready to counter
Or at least not make it so easy on the Heat.
While Miami seems to have an innate ability to flip a switch and
make a run – ”We’re always proactive trying to look for those
spurts and those runs,” Bosh said – the Bucks have helped them out
with turnovers and poor shots. The Heat are so strong and quick
they can turn pretty much any miscue into a fast-break opportunity.
Andersen or Bosh will grab a rebound and rifle it to Wade or James
or Shane Battier or Ray Allen, who puts up the quick jumper.
If that happens on three or four possessions in a row, the game
is going to get out of hand quickly.
”We have to be more relaxed, we have to be more patient,”
Ellis said. ”We’re going to have spurts in the game when we’re not
doing well. We’ve just got to keep our composure at times like
Find a way to get everyone going in the same game, too.
Ellis and Brandon Jennings combined for 48 points in Game 1, but
had just 15 on Tuesday night. With Ellis and Jennings struggling,
Ersan Ilyasova (21 points), Mike Dunleavy (16) and Sanders (14)
gave Milwaukee a boost.
”We’ve got to just try and tie some things together,” Sanders
Even if the Bucks should win Thursday, however, the odds are
still very much in Miami’s favor.
But they have to start somewhere.
”We always believe,” Ilyasova said. ”The first game at home
is really going to be key.”
Notes: Sanders said he is fine after ”tweaking” his ankle in a
collision with Shane Battier on Tuesday night. … Spoelstra said
he expects Battier, who needed stitches in his chin, to play
without any limitations, too. … The Heat spent Wednesday’s off
day in Miami. ”Rest, treatment and fly,” Spoelstra said about his
team’s plans. ”We’ve been going five straight days, we’ve had a
couple very long days. So we’ll get back after it tomorrow morning.
We know what to expect tomorrow and we’re trying to brace ourselves
for Game 3.”
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this