MIAMI - A banner bearing Dwyane Wade's jersey number hangs in the arena the Milwaukee Bucks call home, in tribute of his days as a standout at Marquette.
Suffice to say, he won't have favorite-son status over the next few days.
Wade and the Miami Heat are halfway to advancing in the NBA playoffs after topping the Milwaukee Bucks 98-86 on Tuesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the teams' Eastern Conference first-round series. Wade scored 21 points, LeBron James finished with 19 and the Heat opened the fourth quarter on a 12-0 run to pull away.
Now comes a Wednesday flight to Milwaukee, followed by Game 3 there on Thursday night, when the Heat can take absolute control of the matchup. And Wade is certain that nothing will come easily, not even for the defending NBA champions.
"They're going to come out and play with emotion," Wade said. "I've been in Milwaukee when they've had playoff teams. I know that place can get very loud."
So can his current home arena, which roared for 2 minutes in the fourth quarter when the Heat finally shook off Milwaukee's upset bid.
It was 68-65 entering the fourth. With James and four backups on the court, the Heat needed only 2 minutes, 22 seconds to score a dozen unanswered points and stretch the lead to 80-65.Heat fans show their team spirit!
"We held court," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We protected it for two games. We did what we're supposed to do. And that's it."
Chris Bosh, Shane Battier and Chris Andersen all scored 10 points for the Heat. James' postseason streaks of 22 straight games with at least 20 points, and 16 straight games of at least 25 points, both came to an end.
Ultimately, none of that mattered.
"We were able to jump on them," James said.
Ersan Ilyasova scored 21 points for Milwaukee, which got 16 from Mike Dunleavy and 14 from Larry Sanders. The Bucks' starting guards, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, combined for only 15 points — after teaming up to score 48 in Game 1.
"It's a series," said Sanders, who had a sore right ankle after a collision with Battier in the fourth quarter. "We made progress this game."
They'll need to make more, and do it quickly. James has never lost in 10 previous series in which his team takes a 2-0 lead, and Wade is 8-0 in that same situation.
He was a skinny kid who Miami drafted as a point guard in 2003, a couple months after he took Marquette to the Final Four. Three years later, he became an MVP of the NBA Finals. Now he's looking for his fourth trip to the title round in eight seasons.
To this day, he credits the help he got in Milwaukee for much of his success.
"I went to Milwaukee with not a lot of expectations, and I came out of Milwaukee the fifth pick in the draft," Wade said. "Milwaukee has been special to me. It has helped me get to this point. Going back there in the playoffs is a cool thing."
For a while on Tuesday, it looked as though Wade and the Heat might go to Milwaukee without a 2-0 series lead. It was that 12-0 run that was the difference — in what finished as a 12-point game.
Andersen started it with a three-point play, James had a layup not long afterward and the Heat were starting to roll. Another basket by Andersen off a pass from Ray Allen made it 77-65, and James found Norris Cole for a 3-pointer that capped the flurry and made it 80-65.
Just like that, it was over, even to Miami's surprise.
"They were doing some things that had us spinning around a little bit defensively, got us on our heels, and offensively we never got into a rhythm," Spoelstra said. "So we figured we were just going to have to find a way to grind in the fourth quarter, figuring it was going to be a close game."
Jennings and Ellis combined for 48 points in Game 1, and the Bucks got blown out. So in the first half of Game 2, they combined for one point, were held to five shots that all missed ... and the Bucks were within 47-43 at halftime.
Chances are, very few would have seen that coming.
But play was sloppy from the outset, with the teams combining for eight turnovers in the first 6 minutes to set the tone for a clumsy first half. Wade, James and Chalmers shot 15 for 19 combined in the first half for Miami — and the rest of the Heat were 3 for 17. For Milwaukee, Ilyasova had 12 points in the first 10 minutes, then two points the rest of the half.
So much like in Game 1, Milwaukee came out for the second half with a chance of stealing home-court advantage.
And for the entirety of the third quarter, the Bucks hung around, though the Heat showed some signs of getting things going. Bosh had a dunk for a six-point lead, then made a jumper — on a play that James started by running down a loose ball and flicking it between his legs for a save along the sideline — for a 68-60 lead, what was then the biggest Heat margin of the night.
The Bucks got within 68-65 to end the third, but then came the run that Miami had been waiting for all evening.
"We felt pretty good about the position we were in, giving ourselves an opportunity on the road with 12 minutes to go," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. "You feel good about that. Then they come out, go on a 12-0 run and it changes the complexion of the game. Playing catch-up is very hard to do against a high-quality team like Miami."
Jennings said Milwaukee would win in six games before the series began, and his confidence didn't waver even now with his club in an 0-2 hole.
"We showed a lot of improvement tonight," said Jennings, who shot 3 for 15. "Aside of making that run in the fourth, I think we should have won this game."
NOTES: Battier needed stitches in his chin after the collision with Sanders with 6:59 left. ... It's the 11th time the Heat have gone up 2-0 in a playoff series. They're 10-0 in the previous instances. ... Milwaukee has lost 21 of its last 29 playoff games.
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