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Heat blow out Bucks, snap skid

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The Heat dominated the fourth quarter to end a six-game losing streak

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat dominated the Milwaukee Bucks in the fourth quarter Thursday night, getting a 96-73 win and snapping a six-game losing streak.

Miami’s decisive swing came midway through the fourth, when Tyler Johnson found Josh Richardson for a 3-pointer to put the Heat up 77-69. On the Bucks’ ensuing possession, Hassan Whiteside swatted a layup attempt from Giannis Antetokounmpo. And on the other end of the floor, Goran Dragic — who returned to action after missing the previous two games — sunk a corner 3 to put the Heat up 11.

From then on, the Heat poured it on. And for a team that hadn’t won since Nov. 1, it was a convincing win before the Miami players go on the road for 10 of their next 13 games.

Miami’s offense finally delivered Thursday — albeit with some all-too-familiar slumps to close quarters. Dragic’s return certainly helped. Although the Heat’s point guard shot 5-of-14 from the field, he contributed 16 points, six rebounds and four assists on the night. Dragic was also a +8 in his 35 minutes on the court. He found seams in the defense and drove to the basket, helping spur some good ball movement for the Heat.

Another player who drove to the basket was Dion Waiters, who scored a team-high 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting from inside the arc (Waiters was 0-for-5 from 3-point range). He penetrated the lane relentlessly during the second and third quarters, when the game was still competitive, and connected on floaters and layups.

It wasn’t just Waiters and Dragic who helped Miami snap their six-game losing streak, though. Josh Richardson again got the start in place of the injured Justise Winslow and knocked down four of the Heat’s seven 3s Thursday night (Miami attempted 30 shots from beyond the arc. It wasn’t pretty, especially in the first quarter). His play on both ends of the court reminded how the Heat got an absolute steal in the second round in 2015.

Hassan Whiteside picked up three fouls in just seven minutes of action, preventing him from having any kind of impact in the first half. But Whiteside was much better in the second half, finishing with 12 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocked shots on the night. All of Whiteside’s blocks came in the second half. Although he missed a couple of shots he normally makes — including one point-blank miss that had Whiteside talking to the rim — Whiteside’s defense helped turn the game around for Miami.

James Johnson was active off the bench, finishing with nine points and 10 rebounds off the bench. He may have earned to take the starting power forward spot from Derrick Williams with his energy, shooting and defense. Of course, it will all be by committee for the Heat this year. Luke Babbitt, who began the season as the starting power forward, played all of two minutes Thursday night.

The Heat will visit the Washington Wizards Saturday night at 7 p.m.