Miami Heat

Offense breaks down as Miami Heat blows a 20-point halftime lead to league-best Bucks

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) drives towards the basket as Milwaukee Bucks guard Pat Connaughton (24) defends in the first quarter as the Miami Heat host the Milwaukee Bucks at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday, March 15, 2019.
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) drives towards the basket as Milwaukee Bucks guard Pat Connaughton (24) defends in the first quarter as the Miami Heat host the Milwaukee Bucks at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday, March 15, 2019. adiaz@miamiherald.com

A dream start turned into a nightmare finish for the Miami Heat against the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday. The Heat squandered a 23-point first-quarter lead and 20-point halftime lead with a chance to secure a statement victory against the first-place Bucks in Miami.

Milwaukee outscored the Heat by 35 points in the second half to eventually claim a lopsided 113-98 win. Miami, which took a 62-42 lead, scored only 36 points after halftime, shooting 28.2 percent from the floor in the second half.

With the Heat’s loss, Miami (32-36) remains one game ahead of both the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. The loss also drops the Heat three games behind the Detroit Pistons and Brooklyn Nets, who are tied for the No. 6 spot in the East after the Pistons’ 111-97 win against the LeBron James-less Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

For 24 minutes, Miami’s new-look starting lineup once again seemed like a revelation for a team which has struggled to find consistency this season. Two days after the new starting five blew away Detroit with a 21-0 run in the third quarter Wednesday, the Heat rode its revamped group to a 25-8 start against the Bucks, who boast the best record in the NBA. Miami opened 10 of 16 from the field, and 6 of 6 from three-point range, with seven assists before guards Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic checked in.

Justise Winslow anchored the group with 11 points and three assists in the first quarter, but Kelly Olynyk hit two threes, fellow post player Bam Adebayo handed out two assists, combo guard Josh Richardson scored four points, and wing Dion Waiters added another four points and two assists. The Heat led by as much as 23 in the first quarter and took a 62-42 lead into halftime.

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Even when the starting lineup split up, Winslow drove the Heat. The point forward went into the break with 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting with four assists. He made his first three pointers. He saved a basket with a furious chase-down block on Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe. Winslow even got to put an exclamation point on his career half in the form of an alley-oop from Wade to send AmericanAirlines Arena into a frenzy.

In less than six minutes, Milwaukee (52-17) trimmed Miami’s lead down to seven. The Bucks ripped off a 21-8 run to start the third quarter and coach Erik Spoelstra scrambled to find a fix. He quickly yanked Waiters for fellow wing Rodney McGruder after Waiters lost track of All-Star wing Khris Middleton on multiple possessions, then was forced to adjust when both Winslow and Wade missed time in the second half due to minor injuries.

When Wade went down with a right hip injury with 13.8 seconds left in the third quarter, Miami led 80-76. When the All-Star returned with 5:51 to play, the Heat trailed 100-90 thanks to a 33-point night by Giannis Antetokounmpo and another 21 points from Middleton.

The second-half numbers for the Heat were garish. Winslow failed to score altogether. Wade finished 5 of 16 from the field. Miami went 11 of 39 from the field and 2 of 10 from three-point range in the final 24 minutes to squander a chance for a signature win.

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