Heat 87, Bucks 74
Miami closed the gap to catch Milwaukee to a single game in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Now injuries to Heat center Jermaine O'Neal and Bucks forward Carlos Delfino may shape both teams' fate the rest of the way.
Dwyane Wade had 30 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, leading the Heat to an 87-74 victory over the Bucks on Friday night in a game overshadowed when Delfino was taken from the court on a stretcher after a blow to the head.
The team said Delfino was moving all extremities and went to a hospital for precautionary X-rays on his head and jaw, but there were no further updates after the game.
``We're obviously concerned about Carlos,'' Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. ``We'll just keep our fingers crossed, hope he's OK or if there's something wrong, it's very minor and he can be well.''
Delfino's frightening injury happened late in the first half. After driving to the basket for a layup, he stumbled and landed face down in the lane. In the ensuing scramble for the ball, the 6-foot-8, 235-pound Udonis Haslem jumped up, grabbed the rebound and inadvertently landed on the back of Delfino's head.
Delfino never appeared to move as paramedics flipped him over on his back and carefully strapped him to a back board. Paramedics crossed the Argentinean's arms, but he made no obvious gestures while the crowd chanted his name.
``When the stretcher comes out and they put on a neck brace, it's definitely a disturbing sight,'' said Bucks center Kurt Thomas, who also saw a cut on Delfino's chin that he thought would need stitches. ``It's definitely a freak accident the way he went down and then Haslem going up for the rebound and he didn't see him underneath. Haslem is not a dirty player or anything like that. Just an unfortunate situation.''
Haslem said he had no idea he'd landed on Delfino.
``There was nothing I could do; I couldn't avoid it. I didn't even know he was under me,'' said Haslem, who tied a career high with 18 rebounds to go along with 10 points. ``I hope he's OK. I talked to Coach Skiles after halftime and he said he was doing OK.''
O'Neal left in the first quarter after hyperextending his right knee.
``He's feeling OK but really none of us will know for sure until we get back to Miami and we re-evaluate,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
O'Neal had to be helped off the court when he hurt himself in what appeared to be a non-contact situation after being whistled for traveling. He hopped awkwardly, took a half-step and fell to the court midway through the first quarter.
The entire team and coaching staff surrounded O'Neal while a trainer bent and stretched O'Neal's right knee. O'Neal walked gingerly to the bench and did not return.
``When we throw it down to J.O. in the post he kind of settles things a little bit,'' Wade said. ``He's been playing well for us, especially of late. (But) we've played without him before.''
It was supposed to be a highly contested matchup between the fifth- and sixth-place teams in the Eastern Conference, but Bucks center Andrew Bogut was already out with a sore back and Delfino's injury tempered the enthusiasm of the Bradley Center crowd.
Milwaukee has lost two in a row after a 15-2 stretch, while Miami has now won four straight and 10 of the last 13.
``They had a big piece missing, but we just seized the moment, seized the opportunity,'' forward Michael Beasley said. ``These are games we need to win.''
Wade, who shot 13 of 39 in two previous games against the Bucks this season and missed a third, caught fire from the start in the arena where he launched his stellar college career at Marquette.
Without Bogut roaming down low, Wade took advantage, slashing to the basket and pulling up and knocking down jumpers at will. He finished with at least 30 points for the 22nd time this season on 9-of-14 shooting after hitting his first five attempts, and Miami built a 15-point lead just after Delfino's injury.
The Heat extended the lead to 22 early in the second half and Milwaukee never came within double digits the rest of the way.
``This time of the year, you can go out there and score 50 and your scoring average will only move up a tenth of a point; it don't matter right now,'' Wade said. ``I'm just trying to be a complete player, do what I can to help the team win and get the highest seed possible.''
NOTES: Milwaukee holds the tiebreaker with Miami after winning the season series 3-1. ... Bucks G John Salmons scored 23 points. ... Bucks F Ersan Ilyasova (flu) also didn't play. ... Bogut wasn't at the arena, opting for off-site treatment on his back. ... Milwaukee has gone 8 of 48 from 3-point range in the last two games. ... Wade got a raucous cheer during pregame introductions. Wade led Marquette to the Final Four seven years ago and he's honored with a banner that hangs just over the visitor's bench.