MIAMI (CBSMiami) – While the Miami Heat proved plenty formidable on their recent road trip, they’ve been especially dominant on their own court.
The defending NBA champions, however, haven’t had much of a home-court advantage against the Milwaukee Bucks of late.
In a matchup of first-place teams, the Heat try to extend their best home start in franchise history Wednesday night against the Bucks, who aim for a fifth win in six trips to Miami.
Two nights after pulling out a 98-93 win at Denver, the Heat (8-3) beat Phoenix 97-88 on Saturday to conclude their trek with a 4-2 mark. With Dwyane Wade out for the second consecutive game with a sprained left foot, Chris Bosh had a team-high 24 points while LeBron James overcame flu-like symptoms to score 21.
“Me at 50 percent or 60 percent is better than me not playing at all,” James said. “I set my shooters up as much as possible, but if the game is close down the stretch, I feel like I can make plays individually to help us win.”
Miami now looks to keep rolling at home, where it’s shot 53.2 percent and outscored opponents by an average of 17.7 points in opening 4-0. Though the Heat would appear to have the edge Wednesday with Wade likely to return and James all but certain to be closer to full strength following three days off, the Bucks (6-3) have more than held their own during their last several visits.
Milwaukee has yielded 84.0 points per game during its 4-1 stretch at Miami, taking the last two there while outscoring the Heat by an average of 16.0 points in the paint. Wade, though, missed both those contests.
The Bucks opened 3-0 on the road before falling 102-98 at Charlotte on Monday. Monta Ellis scored 31 points but Brandon Jennings had 10 on 5-of-18 shooting for Milwaukee, which led by 11 with 6:51 to play before coming undone.
“No disrespect to Charlotte, but those are the games that we should be winning,” center Samuel Dalembert said.
Slowing down Bosh could prove crucial if the Bucks hope to get back on track. Miami has gone 27-3 when he scores at least 24 points, and Bosh posted a career-high 44 points against Milwaukee while with Toronto in 2010.
While James, Wade and Bosh continue to garner most of the attention in Miami, Udonis Haslem finds himself on the verge of an impressive milestone. With 4,806 career rebounds, the veteran forward is two away from surpassing Alonzo Mourning for the most in team history.
Haslem is averaging 4.4 points and 4.8 boards off the bench.
“It’s a great story, coming from Liberty City, not being drafted and absolutely earning everything he’s gotten in this league and for this organization,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I’ve said this time and time again: We have core values for this organization. We can list them for you, we can define them for you, or we can just give a picture of UD. That will tell the whole story.
“He embodies all that we want in a Miami Heat basketball player.”
James has averaged 29.6 points versus Milwaukee, his fourth-highest mark against any team.
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