An­te­tok­oun­mpo, Bucks halt Heat win­ning streak

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Ira Win­der­man iwin­der­[email protected]­sen­ Fol­low him at twit­­heat­beat or face­­der­man

MIL­WAU­KEE — So this is the re­ward if the Mi­ami Heat se­cure the No. 8 play­off seed in the East­ern Con­fer­ence?

Spring in Mil­wau­kee doesn’t have quite the ap­peal it used to have.

Un­less, of course, you’re the home­town Bucks, en­ter­ing the play­offs with Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo on your side.

Firm­ing up their league-best record, the Bucks cruised past the Heat for the sec­ond time in as many meet­ings this sea­son at Fis­erv Fo­rum, this time by a 116-87 count Fri­day night, af­ter a 38-point rout in the Heat’s pre­vi­ous visit.

“Ob­vi­ously it would have re­quired one of our bet­ter games,” Heat coach Erik Spoel­stra said, “and it was prob­a­bly one of our poor games that we’ve had in a while.”

With An­te­tok­oun­mpo han­dling the heavy lift­ing early and the Bucks outscor­ing the Heat, 31-18, in the third quar­ter, the Heat needed a lead­ing man of their own to step for­ward. On this night, there wasn’t one.

In­stead, with An­te­tok­oun­mpo clos­ing with 28 points, eight re­bounds and seven as­sists, the Heat fell to 2-1 on this four-game trip that con­cludes Sat­ur­day night against the Wash­ing­ton Wizards at Cap­i­tal One Arena. An­te­tok­oun­mpo was sup­ported by the 18 points, 10 as­sists and two re­bounds of Bucks for­ward Khris Mid­dle­ton.

“They do a great job de­fen­sively,” Spoel­stra said. “We’re an at­tack­ing, paint team and they shut that ba­si­cally com­pletely off. And you have to credit their com­mit­ment to take away the paint.

“Even when we did have some good plays to spray to open shoot­ers, they were few and far be­tween.”

Go­ing in, Spoel­stra said, “These are play­off games for us and we are treat­ing them ac­cord­ingly. This is how you would play play­off games.”

For the Heat’s sake, the hope had bet­ter be oth­er­wise.

“We haven’t cracked the code,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “If we play them in the play­offs, hope­fully we get it.

“We got to fig­ure out a way to be bet­ter.”

Five de­grees of Heat from Fri­day’s game:

1. The play­off race: With the Or­lando Magic over­com­ing a

17-point deficit to de­feat the vis­it­ing Mem­phis Griz­zlies, 123-119, Fri­day night, af­ter the Magic never led dur­ing reg­u­la­tion, the Heat’s lead for the eighth and fi­nal spot in the East­ern Con­fer­ence play­off race is down to a half game en­ter­ing Sat­ur­day’s con­tests, with the Heat at 35-37 and the Magic at


The teams meet Tues­day at Amer­i­canAir­lines Arena, with the Magic lead­ing the sea­son se­ries

2-1. In the in­terim, the Heat play Sat­ur­day in Wash­ing­ton, with the Magic host­ing the Philadel­phia

76ers on Mon­day night. “That’s what we talk about,” Spoel­stra said of the play­off race, “that there’s great joy in these wins, and there’s some pain, be­cause there’s sig­nif­i­cance to these games.”

2. Un­stop­pable force: An­te­tok­oun­mpo opened 5 for 5 and kept go­ing from there, with 11 points in the first quar­ter and 20 by the half.

Af­ter trap­ping with some suc­cess against Kemba Walker, Paul Ge­orge and DeMar DeRozan the pre­vi­ous three games, all vic­to­ries, the Heat this time couldn’t con­jure any­thing that An­te­tok­oun­mpo couldn’t solve.

“They have so much spac­ing, so much shoot­ing that it makes it tough,” Spoel­stra said, “and they have it in all the spots that make it tough to go get him.”

An­te­tok­oun­mpo was back af­ter miss­ing the pre­vi­ous two games with an­kle sore­ness.

“Ob­vi­ously each year, his rise, it’s been spe­cial to see a young kid come in like that and just roll,” Wade said. “I don’t know, be­cause I’m not around, but from what you see it just looks like he puts in so much work. He looks like some of these guys who just live at the gym. It doesn’t even look like he has a house or apart­ment, it looks like he lives in the gym, whether it’s in the weight room or whether it’s work­ing on his game.

“It’s phe­nom­e­nal to see a young guy like that just grow. He doesn’t look sat­is­fied at all. Each year he looks hun­grier. He’s put his team in a po­si­tion to com­pete for a cham­pi­onship.”

3. Wade ac­knowl­edged: The Bucks again hon­ored Wade in his re­turn to his col­lege town, of­fer­ing a Mar­quette-themed video trib­ute dur­ing the game’s first time­out.

Un­sure of whether it was his last NBA game Mil­wau­kee, Wade spoke of the honor of play­ing be­neath his re­tired col­lege No. 3, which was moved from the nowde­mol­ished Bradley Cen­ter to the Bucks’ new arena.

“I mean how many guys can walk into an NBA arena, hav­ing their re­tired jer­sey up in the rafters, right?” Wade said. “So it’s al­ways spe­cial.”

Wade closed with 12 points and an­other blocked shot, ex­chang­ing jer­seys af­ter­ward with both An­te­tok­oun­mpo and Mid­dle­ton.

4. Down two: The Heat re­mained with­out Jus­tise Winslow and Rod­ney McGruder.

Winslow has been out a bruised right thigh sus­tained in the March

15 loss to the Bucks at Amer­i­can-Air­lines Arena.

Der­rick Jones Jr. again started in Winslow’s place, with Josh Richard­son open­ing as a pri­mary ball­han­dler.

McGruder has been out with a sore left knee, with James John­son hav­ing moved into the ro­ta­tion in his place.

5. Road­block: Solid in his play in re­serve the pre­vi­ous three games dur­ing the win­ning streak the Heat car­ried into the night, Go­ran Dragic this time was 0 for 9 from the field, al­though he did close with five re­bounds and four as­sists.


Heat cen­ter Bam Ade­bayo (top) tries to fend off Bucks cen­ter Brook Lopez as they scram­ble for the ball Fri­day night in Mil­wau­kee.

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