Throughout their sizzling turnaround of the past few weeks, the Miami Heat have made the game look absolutely easy at times.
This one was different.
And that thrilled Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
Dwyane Wade scored 34 points, LeBron James added 25 points and nine assists, and the Heat pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 101-89 on Tuesday night for their 19th win in 20 games. An 18-6 run over an 8-minute span got the late-game push going, and a 13-0 late burst sealed it for Miami.
"The players probably enjoyed some other games more," Spoelstra said. "But I think this was an important game. That's a very physical team. They're a very good defensive team. A lot of times when you play against them, it's a grind-out game, and we had to play a different kind of game tonight, have some mental toughness and resiliency when things weren't necessarily going our way."
Chris Bosh finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Heat, who trailed most of the third quarter before getting rolling. It was Miami's final home game for two weeks; the Heat will put their 11-game road winning streak on the line when they visit Milwaukee on Friday.
"We see why this team has beaten some very good teams," Wade said.
John Salmons scored 18 points for Milwaukee, which got 16 from Andrew Bogut and 14 from former Heat guard Keyon Dooling. The Bucks were outrebounded 47-34.
"When we were trying to keep contact with them in the second half it got away from us," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "We had a couple of missed layups, a couple of open jumpers. They took control of the game and we weren't able to get back into it."
There were some plays the Bucks will regret -- fouling Wade twice on 3-point tries in the fourth, most notably -- but the game seemed to change on a strange series late in the third.
Skiles got his second technical while trying to get a referee's attention to argue what he thought was a shot-clock violation on Miami and appeared to accidentally collide with Heat guard Carlos Arroyo. Because it was not considered unsportsmanlike, Skiles was not ejected. But the damage was done: James Jones made a 3-pointer 10 seconds after the call, the first salvo in Miami's closing burst.
"A rule is a rule," Bogut said. "But there was a lot of 50-50 plays like that that didn't go our way. ... It was a huge call, a huge momentum swing in the game."
Skiles said he thought referees made the correct call.
"I would expect that call in return," Skiles said.
Something about playing good teams on the road has brought out the best in the Bucks so far this season, a trend that continued at Miami.
Milwaukee came into the game only 5-11 away from home, the 19th-best road mark in the 30-team NBA. But some of the wins -- over the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas and Atlanta, for example -- and even an overtime loss in Boston in early November have suggested the Bucks are capable of more.
It's a lesson the Heat learned in this one.
Up by 11 after Bosh made a jumper with 7:36 left in the first half and looking comfortable, the Heat quickly went cold, and Milwaukee took advantage. Miami shot 2 for 9 the rest of the quarter, with five turnovers, and the Bucks outscored Miami 23-8 -- 14 of those points coming from the foul line -- to close the period with a 51-47 lead.
"We give a lot of credit to that team," James said. "We know mentally and physically we have to be in-tune to the ballgame ... because a Scott Skiles team always plays hard."
Miami's drought without a field goal lasted nearly 6 minutes before James made layups on consecutive fast-break possessions to tie it at 54 early in the third. Just about everything the Heat tried offensively was at the rim in the third: Of their eight field goals in the quarter, seven were inside of 15 feet, five were either layups or dunks.
Then Jones hit Miami's first 3-pointer of the game following the Skiles technical, and Mario Chalmers made two key 3s in the final minutes to help the Heat seal the outcome.
"We're going to have to win games in a lot of different ways," Bosh said. "Good teams find a way to win."