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Bucks storm back in second half to beat shorthanded Heat 130-116

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Miami held a commanding lead early but couldn’t sustain it in the second half.

Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images

The shorthanded Miami Heat had their chances to become the only NBA team to sweep the regular season series against the mighty Milwaukee Bucks, but it all rapidly came undone in the fourth quarter and ended with a disappointing 130-116 loss Thursday night in Orlando.

Even without Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic, as well as Bam Adebayo battling foul trouble, the Heat played their best basketball within the bubble in the first half and built a 23-point lead in the second quarter with crisp ball movement and outstanding shooting from deep thanks to Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Jae Crowder.

The lack of playmaking without Butler and Dragic wasn’t an issue early with assists on just about every made field goal and players staying active off the ball, notably by Robinson and Herro for easy baskets. The Heat padded their lead with an 11-3 run to open the second quarter and were outplaying the NBA’s best team on both ends of the floor. Helping matters was MVP-candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo also dealing with foul trouble and little support from Milwaukee’s bench while Miami got quality minutes from reserves Andre Iguodala, Herro, and Derrick Jones Jr.

The Heat’s offense was humming along even without a major contribution from Adebayo, save for a gorgeous three-pointer to end the first half. The 73 first half points represented the seventh time the team scored 70+ in a half this season, a franchise record according to the Heat.

But without three of their top players, it was too much to sustain in the second half and they gave up 74 second half points to the Bucks to sink any chance of improbably beating the Bucks for a third straight time this season. The 130 points represented a season high for a Heat opponent.

Though seven Heat players finished with double-digit points, none made much of an impact in the second half. Kelly Olynyk was quiet offensively and only scored two field goals for the night, Adebayo continued to rack up fouls as soon as he entered the court and Herro went cold after a strong showing in the first half.

Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo was unstoppable in the open court and his spin moves froze the Heat’s defenders while Khris Middleton had just about every shot he tried go in during the second half — including two lucky bank shots. Both players scored 33 points each, more than enough to turn the game around and retake the lead.

Though the Heat fought back valiantly and held a six-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Bucks quickly turned the game into a blowout with 20 straight points to cruise to victory.

Milwaukee clinched the #1 seed in the East playoffs with the win while Miami retained a one game lead against the Indiana Pacers, who lost earlier today 114-99 against the Phoenix Suns.

Miami will face the Suns on Saturday at 7:30pm.