The Milwaukee Bucks gained a one-point lead over the Miami Heat after the first possession of the third quarter. The Heat started the game shooting 1-for-15 from the 3-point line, and the Bucks were 6-of-13 from distance. But once Heat players began knocking down 3s and LeBron James took over, Miami settled into a comfortable lead and never looked back. The Heat built an 18-point lead and defeated the Bucks 94-83 to improve to 61-16 on the season.
The win ties Miami's franchise record for most wins in a season. Additionally, the Heat's defeat of Milwaukee makes a Heat/Bucks first-round match-up more likely. The Bucks currently stand three games behind the seventh-place Boston Celtics and have four of their last five games on the road. The fact that Miami handily defeated Milwaukee without Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh could signal that a first-round matchup will not be competitive.
James finished with 28 points on 11-of-16 shooting from the field, seven rebounds and seven assists. The three-time MVP's most entertaining play came in the first quarter, when he hit the ball off the backboard on a fast-break before catching the ball with the other hand and dunking it home. The Heat played well enough to allow James to play only 30 minutes tonight. Miami's most admirable stretch came at the start of the fourth quarter, when the Heat stretched a 12-point lead to 18 with James resting. Ray Allen and James Jones made back-to-back 3s to start the period, and even Chris Andersen made one from distance with the shot clock expiring later. In total, the Heat scored 43 points off the bench.
In addition to James, two Heat players stood out. Udonis Haslem finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds in just 24 minutes of action, constantly beating Bucks players on the glass, taking charges and even playing effective offensively. Andersen chipped in nine points and nine rebounds. Miami will need both Haslem and Andersen to offer quality minutes in the frontline during the playoff run, so seeing them play well tonight is encouraging. Erik Spoelstra reinserted Shane Battier -- who started for Miami after Chris Bosh got injured during last year's championship run -- into the starting lineup tonight. Haslem and Andersen probably will be the first two bigs off the bench and will need to offer performances similar to the ones they delivered tonight.
The Heat will visit the Washington Wizards Wednesday at 7 p.m. to set the franchise record for wins. Wade will travel with the team to Washington and is a game-time decision to play.