The Miami Heat returned to the winners list, outscoring Milwaukee 48-25 in the second half.
Final: Miami 96 Milwaukee 73
Article continues below ...
The Miami Heat overcame a cold start to the game, with their defence coming to the fore in a 96-73 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. In the process, they snapped a six-game losing streak. The Bucks come out on fire and led the Heat 20-6 with five minutes remaining in the first period. However the Heat managed to grind away for the rest of the half to bring scores level at 48 apiece at the main break.
Following early foul trouble which saw him play just eight first-half minutes, Hassan Whiteside exploded in the second half. Whiteside finished with 12 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks and completely dominated the paint following an incredibly frustrating first half. Dion Waiters led the all scorers with 23 points and Josh Richardson posted 18 points for the Heat, who won the game convincingly despite shooting just 40.2 percent from the field.
With a combination of terrific Heat defence and terrible shooting, the Bucks shot just 32.9 percent from the field, with up-and-coming forward Jabari Parker struggling mightily for his 11 points on 5-of-20 from the field. The Bucks were led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Tony Snell who each totalled 14 points. With Goran Dragic returning from a three-game absence due to an ankle injury, the Heat featured yet another different starting lineup.
One concerning aspect for the Heat despite the impressive win was their free-throw shooting. Already last in the league from the foul line at 66.5 percent, the Heat converted just 11-of-21 in what seems to becoming a worrying trend. However led by Whiteside, the Heat won the battle of the boards convincingly, 59-48.
And following a game which saw them commit 23 turnovers, the Heat turned the ball over just seven times in this contest.
Having missed the past three games due to an ankle injury, Dragic was rusty early on, scoring just two points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half. But following the break, Dragic was outstanding, finishing with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists. The Heat certainly missed Dragic during his absence, and he will be much better for the run.
Waiters again impressed with his aggressive play, posting 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists along with zero turnovers. Waiters was constantly attacking the Bucks defence, and if he wasn’t finishing impressively off the glass, he was setting up Whiteside underneath for scoring opportunities. However, his free-throw troubles continued, hitting 3-of-5 for the night, which brings him to just 53.8 percent for the season.
Whiteside more than made up for a frustrating first half, which saw him pick up three fouls in just eight minutes of play. Having posted just two points and four rebounds in the opening half, Whiteside finished with 12 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks and two steals, with all the blocks coming after the main break. Whiteside completely dominated the paint in the second half, and his blocked shots provided the impetus for a number of Heat scoring opportunities at the other end.
Williams started his third consecutive game, but again his playing time was limited. Williams posted just two points, two rebounds and an assist in his 15 minutes on the court. Having succeeded Luke Babbitt in the starting lineup, Williams doesn’t appear to have the full support of head coach Erik Spoelstra. It would make sense that for the benefit of all involved – player, team, coach – that Williams be given some legitimate playing time and thus determine whether he has the goods to offer ther Heat. At the moment, Williams looks very tentative and afraid to make a mistake. The past two games has seen Spoelstra yank him from the game for: 1) an accidental, unintentional turnover and 2) a missed three-pointer, which in this case, Spoelstra pointed straight to the bench and he was replaced. Case in point is Dion Waiters – he has made some horrendous plays and decisions in the early part of the season. However, the confidence he was shown by the coaching staff has seen him start to flourish in recent games. Williams should be afforded this same opportunity.
Richardson got better as the game went along, scoring 12 of his 18 points in the second half, all of which were three-pointers. Playing in his seventh game since a two month absence with a knee injury, Richardson seems to getting more and more comfortable with each game. With his explosiveness returning, Richardson’s ability on both ends of the floor is even more important in the absence of Justise Winslow.
Johnson was again a solid contributor off the Heat bench, finishing with eight points, eight rebounds and five assists in 23 minutes of play. These 23 minutes represented his lowest playing time for the season, undoubtedly due to the influence that Waiters and Richardson were having on the court.
Johnson continued his impressive recent from, returning nine points, 10 rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block in 30 minutes of action. Johnson again demonstrated his versatility, with his ability to put the ball on the floor, play on the perimeter and bang down low a real positive for the team.
The Heat kick off their four-game road trip on Saturday night when they take on the Washington Wizards. Game starts 7pm ET.