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The Milwaukee Bucks' Mike Dunleavy looks on as the Miami Heat's LeBron James (center) drives around the Bucks' Luc Mbah a Moute (right) in the first half of their game in Miami, on Tuesday. James scored 28 points in 30 minutes and the Heat won 94-83, their franchise-best 61st victory of the season. Andrew Innerarity / Reuters
Dwyane Wade was hurt, Chris Bosh was sick, the Miami Heat missed 15 consecutive 3-point attempts and allowed the Milwaukee Bucks to score 22 points off turnovers.
And the Heat won handily anyway.
So if this was a potential first-round Eastern Conference playoff preview, the Bucks probably didn't enjoy much of what they saw on Tuesday night. LeBron James scored 28 points in 30 minutes, Udonis Haslem had his first double-double of the season and the Heat moved a step closer to wrapping up home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs by topping the Bucks 94-83.
"The train keeps on moving," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The Heat tied a franchise single-season record by winning for the 61st time, getting there with five games remaining. Miami needs only one more win or one San Antonio loss to clinch the top overall seed for the entirety of the playoffs. The defending champion (61-16) clinched the top seed in the East long ago, and will more than likely see the Bucks (37-40) when the postseason starts in about a week and a half.
"We've done so many great things this year by just playing the game at a high level, playing for one another," James said. "Along the way, when those accolades come as far as team wins, the streak that we had, we really enjoy it."
Norris Cole and Ray Allen each scored 11 for the Heat, and Haslem finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds. Wade missed his fifth straight game and seventh in the past nine while dealing with ankle and knee issues, and Bosh sat out his second straight contest, though this time it was flu-like symptoms that left him sidelined, not the sore knee that kept him from participating in Saturday's game against Philadelphia.
Bosh is not expected to accompany Miami for its trip to play in Washington on Wednesday. Wade is traveling with the club, and will be evaluated on Wednesday before the Heat make any determinations on the rotation for the matchup against the Wizards. It's unknown if anyone else will sit to rest any nagging issues, including James, who said he's still working his way back to full strength.
Brandon Jennings scored 30 points for the Bucks, who said they didn't necessarily treat Tuesday as a dress rehearsal for a possible Game 1 in Miami.
"Whenever we play Miami we have two, three guys guarding (James)," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. "We didn't do anything unusual tonight. I wasn't looking for anything. We just had a normal kind of game - nothing out of the ordinary for us."
James finished 11 for 16 from the floor, with seven rebounds and seven assists.
"Monta really outsmarted me so I had to outsmart him too," James said.
"I was going to Mike and he kind of played the passing lane, so I had to make an in-flight adjustment."
(China Daily 04/11/2013 page24)