Miami Heat

Heat’s seventh consecutive win puts them just a game back of third-place Cavaliers

It didn’t go down to the wire for a change.

But the Miami Heat used the same successful formula to secure its seventh consecutive victory with another collective effort in a 97-79 win over the Milwaukee Bucks at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The Heat (25-17) pulled to within one game of the Cleveland Cavaliers for third place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Miami had won its previous six games by eight points or less.

Trailing 48-46 with 7:33 left in the third quarter, the Heat used a 14-0 run to take the lead for good as Goran Dragic scored 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter.

Dragic hit three of his four three-pointers in the final period.

Hassan Whiteside helped spark the third quarter offensive outburst in which the Heat outscored the Bucks 30-16 with nine of his 15 points.

Whiteside recorded his 134th career double moving him past Udonis Haslem into fourth place on the franchise’s all-time list. Whiteside also blocked four shots in the first quarter.

Josh Richardson finished with 16 points and Tyler Johnson had 14 points.

The Heat defense was stellar as it limited the Bucks to only 31.6 percent shooting (25 of 79).

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks (22-20) with 22 points, but Khris Middleton had one of his worst shooting efforts of the season going 3 of 16 from the field despite finishing with 16 points.

Justise Winslow, who missed the past 14 games with a left knee strain, played for the first time since Dec. 13 and recorded four key assists to go along with three points in 13 minutes and 11 seconds of play.

Bam Adebayo had a career-high six assists and six points as he and Kelly Olynyk (seven points) came off the bench and James Johnson started in his first game since serving a one-game suspension earlier this week following an on-court altercation with Raptors forward Serge Ibaka on Tuesday in Toronto.

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