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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Ira Winderman

Heat roll past Giannis-less Bucks, 111-95, for 12th victory in last 17 games

MIAMI — A four-game homestand that featured the Brooklyn Nets on the front end and a pair of games against the Milwaukee Bucks at the conclusion did not appear to be the moment for the Miami Heat to make a statement.

Circumstances, however, spoke differently.

So with the Bucks without Giannis Antetokounmpo for the second consecutive game, and with the Heat continuing to show the ability to push past injuries, Saturday’s 111-95 victory made it 12 victories in their last 17 games.

“We’re competing,” forward Jimmy Butler succinctly summarized the turnaround.

Playing again in the injury void of Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry and Caleb Martin, the Heat made it three consecutive victories since losing last Sunday to the Nets, when factoring Tuesday night’s decision over the Oklahoma City Thunder, now a season-best four games above .500, at 24-20.

“What you want out of a team is you’re growing from your experiences,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You can kind of sense when a team is getting bonded by those collective experiences.”

Gabe Vincent again got the best of the Bucks, with 27 points, supported by 20 points from Victor Oladipo, 20 points and 13 rebounds from Bam Adebayo and 16 points from Butler.

Five Degrees of Heat from Saturday’s game:

— 1. Closing time: The Heat went up 11 early and led 28-20 at the end of the first period, later pushing their lead to 15 in the second period on the way to a 53-45 halftime lead. It was then 77-71 Heat going into the fourth.

The Heat established a double-digit lead at 89-79 on a Max Strus 3-pointer with 8:53 to play and went on to push their advantage to 18, with what grew into a 13-0 run.

With Adebayo dominating the scoring in the fourth with 14 points, it allowed the Heat to rest Butler the entire final period.

“I feel like in this stretch we’ve really been enjoying basketball,” Adebayo said, “and you’re seeing it on the court.”

— 2. Still going: After scoring a career-high 28 on Thursday night against the Bucks as a fill-in for Lowy, Vincent this time reached the 20-point mark with 5:32 left in the second period, after a personal 10-0 Heat scoring run.

Vincent closed the first half with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field, including 5-of-7 shooting on 3-pointers, at 25 points going into the fourth quarter.

“He has the emotional stability to handle different roles that not many players in this league expect,” Spoelstra said of Vincent morphing into a go-scorer these past two games.

He closed 11 of 14 from the field, including 5 of 8 on 3-pointers, with the Heat improving to 4-0 when he starts.

“I think I was just in a rhythm and my guys did a good job of getting me open,” Vincent said.

— 3. Oladipo on call: With much of the bench shuffled into the starting lineup, Oladipo again stepped up with enough of a bench boost to allow Spoelstra to buy time on the bench for Butler.

Showing a proclivity in recent games for converting transition 3-pointers, Oladipo has utilized that threat to draw defenders out and then blow past for trademark rim attacks.

“He’s a major X-factor for our team,” Spoelstra said. “That’s what we had hoped for. That’s what we anticipated.”

He also closed with a team-high five assists.

“It reminds me of when he was the All-Star Victor Oladipo,” Adebayo said.

— 4. Waiting game: With Antetokounmpo again out for the Bucks, who continue to be without Khris Middleton, and with Herro, Lowry and Martin again out for the Heat, a truer read on the matchup won’t come until the Heat’s two visits to Milwaukee in February.

Antetokounmpo was scratched Saturday with knee pain that coach Mike Budenholzer said was nothing out of the norm for the All-Star forward.

Herro and Lowry each have missed the past three games, Herro due to Achilles soreness, Lowry due to knee pain. Martin has missed the past five, due to a quadriceps strain.

— 5. Dedmon back: Backup center Dewayne Dedmon again was available, after being suspended by the team for Thursday’s game following his outburst at the bench early in Tuesday night’s victory over the Thunder.

“We’ve talked about it internally,” Spoelstra said. “He’s back with the group. We’re glad to have him back. He feels bad about the incident and we’re moving forward as a group.”

Orlando Robinson continued to play ahead of Dedmon, this time as first big man off the bench, entering when Adebayo was called for his second foul with 6:28 left in the first period.

Dedmon, who did not play Saturday, said it was never his intention to swat a training device onto the court during Tuesday’s course of play.

“That was all unintentional,” Dedmon said, adding of his role, “I understand that clarity of the situation.”

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