The Heat received a much-needed reminder Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. These are the playoffs. Even in the first round, it’s supposed to be a little difficult.
Everyone had grown spoiled it seemed, fans included, by all that absurd winning. The blowouts, the winning streak, the record-setting field-goal percentages — it was all so easy during the regular season. For three quarters in Game 2 of its first-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Heat was locked into one of those grind-it-out struggles it experienced so many times during the 2012 postseason.
Then, of course, the blowout commenced.
Led by Chris “Birdman” Andersen (who else?), the Heat scored 12 consecutive points to begin the fourth quarter and rolled to a 98-86 victory to take a 2-0 series lead against Milwaukee. The series now moves to Milwaukee, where the Heat can finish the best-of-7 affair with two more wins.
For most of Game 2, the Heat didn’t really play like a team interested in sweeping a series. For example, Chris Bosh attempted three shots in the first half. He had three three-pointers in Game 1.
“The majority of the things that happen in the playoffs are not going to be easy,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You got to fight for it and you’ve got to earn it and [the Bucks] were playing well. They were putting us in positions where we were on our heels.”
Then, just as he did in Game 1, Andersen helped spark the rally that put the game.
With the arena half asleep, the Heat led 68-65 to begin the final period when Andersen muscled his way inside for back-to-back offensive rebounds and a hard-earned layup. He was fouled on the play and converted his free throw to give the Heat a six-point lead, which matched Miami’s largest lead of the game.
“We were just able to open that game with a lot of energy and a lot of effort plays and that was really important,” said LeBron James, who finished with 19 points.
Andersen added another field goal less than two minutes into the period and Norris Cole, another reserve, capped the run with his only three-pointer of the game.
“They come in with great energy, athleticism, quickness and, probably above anything else, a real sense of urgency,” Spoelstra said of his second-unit. “It sparks us.”
Miami outscored the Bucks 30-21 in the final period and won the rebounding battle 15-9 in the quarter.
Overall, the Heat shot 44.9 percent, well under its average during the regular season (49.6), while going 6 of 19 from three-point range. The Bucks shot 50 percent but received only 15 points from Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis after the backcourt mates combined for 48 points in Game 1.
“We tried to be aggressive,” Spoelstra said of a defensive approach that proved successful against the guards.
Jennings, who missed his first seven shots of the game, spent plenty of time on his back after drives into the lane. He finished the game 3 of 15 for eight points. Ellis was 2 of 7 for seven points. They combined to go 0 of 10 from three-point range.
“That’s something we have to rely on is our defense throughout these playoffs,” Bosh said. “Offense, if it’s there, it’s always awesome. We feel if we’re not shooting the ball well it’s only a matter of time. We were still shooting 50 percent at halftime and they were shooting at 50 percent, too. We had to take them down.”
Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 21 points, showing flashes of determination during the Heat’s malaise in the second and third quarter. He finished 8 of 14 from the field and 5 of 6 from the line while also contributing seven rebounds and three assists. Still, Wade noted after the game that his sore knee was still giving him problems.
“Hopefully it will continue to feel better,” Wade said. “Right now I’m just trying to do what I can”
Wade’s driving dunk with 7:22 left in the third quarter gave the Heat a 55-53 lead. He threw down another dunk two minutes later and had eight points in the third quarter.
“I decided to bring a little energy, be a little aggressive,” Wade said of his third-quarter effort.
After going 5 of 12 in Game 1, Wade found his rhythm in the first half of Game 2. He was 6 of 9 shooting to begin the game.
James went 6 of 14 from the field and failed to reach 20 points for the first time in 23 playoff games. His streak of 22 postseason games with at least 20 points was a franchise record. James also had eight rebounds and six assists. Before Tuesday, James had scored at least 25 points in 16 consecutive postseason games.
James was steaming mad at halftime after the Heat led by only three points (47-43). He slammed the ball into the court after the buzzer and screamed an expletive as he stormed into the locker room.
“We started off careless in the first quarter,” James said. “It wasn’t the best way to start a game and we allowed them to get comfortable.”
Bosh finished with 10 points after his slow start. Andersen and Shane Battier led the bench with 10 points each. Ray Allen and Cole contributed seven each.
Battier left the game in the fourth quarter after a collision with Bucks forward Larry Sanders. His chin required four stitches. Sanders finished with 14 points.