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In Wade’s return, Heat hold off Bucks 91-85

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The Heat snapped a five-game losing streak in Dwyane Wade’s first game back in a Miami uniform.

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

When Dwyane Wade jogged to the scorer’s table midway through the first quarter of the Miami Heat’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks Friday night, the Heat crowd erupted in cheers for the face of the franchise. Moments later, Wade sunk his first shot attempt: a 3-pointer.

But it was on the defensive end when Wade made his statement late. With the Bucks having cut an 18-point deficit to four, Wade blocked an Eric Bledsoe breakaway layup attempt with 31.7 seconds left. Wayne Ellington knocked down a 3-pointer on the other end of the floor, putting the Heat up 88-81 with 15 seconds to go.

Miami’s season-long five-game losing streak ended at five, and the Heat improved to 30-26 on the season. Miami also defeated the Bucks, a team currently ahead of them in the standings, and swept the season series against Milwaukee.

The Heat’s woes over their five-game losing streak (and beyond) didn’t disappear with the 2006 NBA Finals MVP’s arrival. Miami again struggled to hold on to a double-digit fourth-quarter lead — an issue the Heat have grappled with since the beginning of the season. With the exception of a dominant third quarter, Miami’s offense stalled for several parts of the game. Miami only shot 36 percent from the field Friday night. But man, was it good to get a win, and great to see Wade in a Heat uniform yet again.

Josh Richardson, who was a rookie when Wade last played for the Heat, scored 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field. He made two key mid-range jumpers late in the game — one with 3:51 left, the other 39 seconds later — to keep Milwaukee at bay. For the Heat to be successful, Richardson needs to continue taking steps forward in moments like that one. Wade’s presence and mentorship will only help Richardson as the third-year swingman continues to develop into a franchise cornerstone.

Wade’s 3-pointer was his only made shot of the game. He missed his other five attempts, including forcing a couple ill-advised shots in the second half and getting blocked a couple times. But the 6-foot-4 guard from Marquette played a good floor game, and immediately showed his ability as a passer with lobs to Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson.

Tyler Johnson got the start at shooting guard — that may soon change, as Wade fills in the role Dion Waiters once had — and he scored 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field, including knocking down three shots from beyond the arc. It was nice to see Johnson finally shoot the ball well after struggling over his last few games.

It was also good to see Ellington knock down some 3-pointers. Aside from his clutch 3 in the final minute, Ellington made two 3s early in the fourth quarter. In an otherwise dreary fourth quarter that saw the game get dangerously close, those 3s helped secure the victory.

Spoelstra played Whiteside and Bam Adebayo together for stretches Friday night. Both played well individually, but using that lineup in the fourth quarter was probably a mistake. Because Adebayo can’t yet shoot jumpers, Miami’s offense couldn’t find a rhythm with both Whiteside and Adebayo in the fourth. That’s when the Bucks made their last furious run.

Whiteside finished with 12 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the field and 16 rebounds, but committed two boneheaded fouls. Adebayo scored 15 points and went an impressive 9-of-10 from the free-throw line, grabbed 10 boards and had this amazing block.

Spoelstra should have used a bit more of James Johnson instead of the Whiteside/Adebayo look. James Johnson scored nine points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field, but more importantly played some superb defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo, who shot just 8-for-21 from the field. Johnson made everything difficult for Antetokounmpo, including stripping him in a second-quarter drive to the basket and this block in the fourth.

The Heat will visit the Toronto Raptors Tuesday at 7 p.m. next.