With an outright chance to claim the NBA’s third longest win streak in history, the Miami Heat face the Milwaukee Bucks Friday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The Heat have won 20 straight games, tied for third with the 1970-1971 Milwaukee Bucks, and the Washington Capitols of 1947-1948 and 1948-1949 seasons.
Miami could own the mark with a victory, and then challenge the 2007-2008 Houston Rockets 22-game streak.
His second straight MVP, and fourth overall, essentially sown up, LeBron James carried Miami to a close 98-94 over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday. James netted 27 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists, but also suffered four turnovers. Dwyane Wade shot 7-for-14 for 21 points and eight rebounds, but the Heat were outscored 55-47 in the second half.
Of Miami’s 14 losses this season, all but three were against playoff teams, including a 19-point 104-85 blowout in their last trip to Milwaukee back in December.
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The Bucks forced 20 Heat turnovers, and center Larry Sanders swatted four Miami shots, along with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Point guard Brandon Jennings scorched the net for 25 points and seven assists, with four steals.
Sander leads the NBA with 3.16 blocks per game, and if the playoffs began today, Miami would face the eighth seeded Bucks in the first round.
Barring a huge collapse, 32-31 Milwaukee should hold onto the East’s final playoff spot, with the Toronto Raptors eight games back.
The Bucks are coming off a disappointing 106-93 loss to the Washington Wizards, who stomped them for 58 points in the paint.
Guard Monta Ellis led all scorers with 26 points, and Ersan Ilyasova had 21 points and 12 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the year. Jennings tallied 10 assists, but was 2-for-8 for eight points.
Rebounds and the lack of an interior prescence have plagued Miami throughout the season. The Heat are last in rebounds per game, but out-rebounded Milwaukee in their previous meeting. Still, in nine of their 14 losses, the Heat have faced an 8.5 rebounding margin from their opponents.
The game tips-off at 8:30 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast by Sun Sports and Fox Sports Wisconsin, or you can watch a live online stream by purchasing NBA League Pass Broadband here.
Betting Odds: Miami is favored by 6.5 points
Over/Under: 203 points
Prediction: Sanders poses a serious threat in the paint and, although inconsistent, Ilyasova has the potential to run Miami ragged on the defensive end. Jennings and Ellis could also attack Miami’s strong perimeter defense and try to draw fouls to keep the pace down. The Heat will need a huge game on both ends of the floor from Chris Bosh, and Wade should take the game over in the fourth quarter for their 21st consecutive win.
Predicted Score: Miami 104, Milwaukee 95