Preview: Heat at Bucks
The Miami Heat are not only hanging on in the Eastern Conference without Chris Bosh but are moving up the standings. The Heat will try to keep the pressure on the Boston Celtics for the No. 3 spot in the East when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.
Miami has picked some low-hanging fruit on its five-game winning streak – grabbing a pair of wins over the NBA-worst Philadelphia 76ers and one each over the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns in the stretch – and will get much bigger tests from the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors after finishing up with the Bucks on the three-game road trip.
The relatively easy slate of late has allowed the Heat to work Joe Johnson into the lineup seamlessly, and the veteran guard is averaging 14 points on 60.4 percent shooting in the last five contests. Johnson and Miami guard Dwyane Wade will have to put in some extra work on the wings defensively on Wednesday against Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has been handling point guard duties of late.
The multi-talented Antetokounmpo recorded his first three career triple-doubles in the last eight games since moving to a point-forward role.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, FSN Sun (Miami), FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee)
ABOUT THE HEAT (37-26): Miami is a half-game behind Boston for the No. 3 spot in the East and will play 11 of its final 19 games on the road. “With the way it is in the Eastern Conference, we’re right there in the thick of things.” Wade told reporters. “For this team, it’s all about understanding how good we are and how good we can be. We’ve gotta keep learning. There’s some teams ahead of us, for sure, but we’ve gotta continue getting better as we get down to this last 20 games or so and we’ll be alright.” Wade is averaging 23 points during the five-game winning streak while backcourt mate Goran Dragic is chipping in 18.6.
ABOUT THE BUCKS (26-38): Antetokounmpo should get even more of a chance to shine at the point with Michael Carter-Williams done for the season. Carter-Williams, who will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip on Thursday, spent most of the season as the starter at point guard before moving to the bench. “We’re going to miss Mike, understanding what he’s done for us all season,” coach Jason Kidd told reporters before Monday 100-90 loss at Chicago. “Been asked to come off the bench, we’ve had him start, averaging over 11 points, rebounding the ball for us, assists, and then defensively, he’s always taken the assignment of one of the best perimeter guys.”
1. Antetokounmpo is averaging 21 points, 9.6 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 2.8 steals in the last five games.
2. Heat C Hassan Whiteside has grabbed double-digits in rebounds in nine straight contests.
3. Miami snapped a five-game losing streak in the series with a 107-103 win in Milwaukee on Jan. 29.
PREDICTION: Heat 103, Bucks 99