MIAMI (AP) — Down by only three points, the Milwaukee Bucks walked onto the court for the fourth quarter knowing they had a very real chance to steal a game from the Miami Heat.
Barely 2 minutes later, that chance was long gone.
Dwyane Wade scored 21 points, LeBron James finished with 19 and the Heat used a frantic start to the fourth quarter to pull away and beat the Bucks 98-86 in Game 2 of the teams' Eastern Conference first-round series on Tuesday night.
It was 68-65 entering the fourth. With James and four backups on the court, the Heat needed only 2 minutes, 22 seconds to outscore Milwaukee 12-0 and stretch the lead to 80-65.
"We definitely had an opportunity for three quarters — but you've got to play four," said Milwaukee's Mike Dunleavy. "There are no shortcuts. You've got to play well for 48 minutes."
The Heat lead the best-of-seven series 2-0, with Game 3 in Milwaukee on Thursday.
Ersan Ilyasova scored 21 points for Milwaukee, which got 16 from 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 he collided 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 where his team takes a 2-0 lead, and Wade is 8-0 in that same situation.
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 from the field. "Aside of making that run in the fourth I think we should have won this game."
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 didn't get into our game like we wanted to in that third quarter," James said. "But we went into the fourth with a (three-point) lead and we were able to jump on them."
For about 46 minutes, the Bucks played them even. 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.
"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," Heat coach Erik 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. It was just a quick skirmish and explosion."
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