MIAMI (AP) – The Milwaukee Bucks are having trouble maintaining their strong start as they try to win consecutive meetings with the Miami Heat for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
Amid a three-week stretch against tough opponents, the Bucks look to get back on track at home while ending their longest skid of the season Friday night against the inconsistent Heat.
Milwaukee (10-10) was off to its best 17-game start in nine years after allowing 86.7 points and 41.7 percent shooting in three straight wins last week – two over Detroit and another at Minnesota.
The Bucks, however, have struggled defensively to begin a stretch of 10 of 11 against teams that currently have .500 records or better. The one exception in that span is Tuesday’s visit to Oklahoma City, which now has Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook back.
Milwaukee gave up 111.7 points and 49.6 percent shooting in losses to Houston, Cleveland and Dallas. Former Buck Monta Ellis extended the skid with a fall-away jumper at the buzzer of the 107-105 defeat to the Mavericks on Wednesday.
“It didn’t come down to just that last shot,” coach Jason Kidd said. “We made some mistakes leading up to that.”
Brandon Knight finished with a team-high 25 points and he’s totaled 52 along with 13 assists, 12 rebounds, seven 3-pointers and seven steals in his last two games. He also scored a team-high 20 and hit three 3s in the final three minutes as Milwaukee won 91-84 on the road Nov. 16 to snap a 10-game skid to Miami, including playoffs.
Rookie Jabari Parker scored eight points Wednesday after totaling 41 in his previous two games.
The Bucks haven’t won two in a row in this series since capping a three-game winning streak in February 2012.
They’ve averaged 104.6 points while shooting 40.0 percent from 3-point range in their last five games, and will be facing a Miami team that has allowed 110.8 points and 46.6 from beyond the arc over its last four losses.
The Heat (9-9) look to avoid a season high-tying third straight defeat as they open a five-game trip. They allowed an opponent to shoot at least 54.1 percent overall for the second straight contest in Wednesday’s 112-102 loss to Atlanta.
Miami shot 56.3 percent, losing for the third time in 94 games when shooting 56 percent or better. The Heat had averaged 91.8 points and 44.5 percent shooting in their previous eight.
“We have to figure it out,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We just have to get to work. That is the only solution. The solution is in the locker room and that’s what it’s about right now.”
Dwyane Wade is averaging 25.0 points and 60.8 percent shooting in three games since returning from a hamstring injury. He did not play against the Bucks last month, when Chris Bosh went 2 of 17 from the field and Miami hit 41.1 percent overall.
Luol Deng is questionable with a bone bruise on his right hand while Norris Cole remains day to day with an illness.
Milwaukee will be without forward Ersan Ilyasova for at least four games after he sustained a broken nose at Cleveland.
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