Miami Heat

Defense still issue for struggling Miami Heat in loss to Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks' Zaza Pachulia knocks the ball away from Miami Heat's Chris Bosh during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee Bucks' Zaza Pachulia knocks the ball away from Miami Heat's Chris Bosh during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Milwaukee. AP

The Heat featured its sixth starting lineup in the past eight games on Friday against the Bucks.

That’s not the ideal way to start a five-game trip and, and before the game even started, Chris Bosh was reminding everyone that the Heat’s bad luck recently is “just the way the world works.”

“We’ve got to be men,” Bosh said. “It’s a man’s league.”

Then he got dunked on by the 6-11 kid whose name doesn’t even fit in a boxscore.

They call second-year forward Giannis Antetokounmpo the “Greek Freak” in Milwaukee because no one really knows how to pronounce or spell his name. Some people call him “Alphabet.”

Whatever moniker sticks for the 19-year-old, Antetokounmpo plays like a future star in the league, and his young team in Milwaukee appears to be progressing nicely as the season presses toward the second week of December.

The Heat, on the other hand, isn’t getting any better.

Despite 28 points from Dwyane Wade and 21 from Chris Bosh, the Heat lost to the Bucks 109-85. It snapped a three-game losing streak for Milwaukee (10-11), and dropped the Heat below .500 for the first time this season. The Heat is now 9-10.

The problem is defense or, more specifically, a lack of it. Four of the Heat’s past five opponents have shot at least 54 percent from the field. Not even Pat Riley’s presence could motivate the Heat on Friday.

“We’ve been playing pretty bad basketball,” Bosh said.

Riley watched from the stands for most of the game but left before it ended. He had seen enough. The Bucks shot 56.5 percent and outrebounded the Heat by a startling 45 to 20.

“They didn’t miss many shots,” Wade said. “When you’re giving up 56 percent from the field, there ain’t many rebounds out there for you.”

But even offense failed the Heat on this night. The Bucks outscored Miami by 20 points in the second half. Led by Kendall Marshall’s 20 points, the Bucks’ bench outscored the Heat’s reserves 60-18.

“Offensively we couldn’t score the basketball,” Wade said. “We’re always going to point to our defense, but you’ve got to put the ball in the basket to win games and we went for a long time without scoring.”

Starter Luol Deng missed the game with a bruised hand, and Danny Granger started at small forward. In addition to Deng’s absence, point guard Norris Cole wasn’t available because of an illness. The Heat started Granger, Bosh, Wade and Josh McRoberts, with Mario Chalmers at point guard.

And it wasn’t pretty.

Only Wade and Bosh scored in double digits. Chalmers had nine points and six assists and Granger, playing sick, had seven points. He was 1 of 5 from the free-throw line. Rookie James Ennis had seven points in 25 minutes off the bench. McRoberts and backup power forward Shawne Williams combined to go just 2 of 4 from the field. It was as if they just decided to quit shooting.

Kendall Marshall made a three-pointer with 7:12 left to give the Bucks a 91-75 lead. Marshall then hit another three-pointer a minute later, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called a timeout to stop the momentum. It didn’t matter at that point, though. The Heat wasn’t coming back.

Marshall led the Bucks with 20 points, going 7 of 8 from the field and 4 of 5 from three-point range.

Antetokounmpo had 14 points and seven rebounds. Rookie Jabari Parker had 14 points, going 6 of 9 from the field, and point guard Brandon Knight of Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest High School had 13 points in less than 22 minutes.

The Bucks started Zaza Pachulia in place Larry Sanders. Sanders, who is from Port St. Lucie, was questionable before the game with an illness and played limited minutes (18) off the bench. Still, he had more rebounds (six) than anyone on the Heat’s roster.

The Heat’s lead swelled to 36-25 less than a minute into the second quarter.

The 11-point lead didn’t last, though. Led by the bench, the Bucks outscored Miami 29-20 in the second quarter. Wade’s 21 points in the first half weren’t enough for the Heat, which trailed 54-50 at halftime.

“They started shooting the ball very well against our defensive system from the outside and it opened up their game,” Wade said.

▪ The four steals by Chalmers in the first quarter were the most by a Heat player in any quarter this season. Cole held the previous high with three steals in a quarter on Nov.14 in Atlanta.

▪ Wade’s 21 points in the first half was his high for any half this season. Additionally, the 11 points by Wade in the first quarter tied his high for a first quarter this season. He also scored 11 points in the first quarter against the Pacers on Nov.12.

▪ The Bucks’ fans directed a funny chant at Heat reserve center Justin Hamilton when he was at the free-throw line in the second half. With “Who are you? Who are you?” in his ear, Hamilton made his and-one foul shot.

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