Dion Waiters' 33 points carries Miami Heat past Milwaukee Bucks

By Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 22, 2017 at 1:38 AM
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MIAMI -- Don't mention the Golden State Warriors -- not when the Miami Heat are finally rolling.

The Heat (14-30), on their first three-game win streak of the season, doesn't want to think -- at least not just yet -- about the Western Conference champions who will invade their home court on Monday night.

Instead, the Heat would prefer to talk about Dion Waiters, who tied his career high with 33 points to lead Miami to a 109-97 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Waiters' previous best this season was 28 points against the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 26. He then missed the next 20 games due to a groin injury, and this was his first 20-plus scoring game since Memphis.

"Coach (Erik Spoelstra) believes in me," Waiters said. "I'm just happy to be back out there. I missed a lot of time. I feel like I'm hitting my stride."

Miami also got 25 points from Goran Dragic and 16 points and 15 rebounds from Hassan Whiteside.

Waiters credited Dragic, who had a team-high six assists, with getting him open looks.

"Goran is going to put pressure on their defense," Waiters said of Dragic. "I just have to find my lane."

Meanwhile, all roads appear blocked at the moment for Milwaukee (20-23), which has lost a season-worst five straight games.

Newly-named All-Star starter Giannis Antetokounmpo produced 24 points and 10 rebounds for Milwaukee. But the Bucks played the first quarter without standout forward Jabari Parker, who broke an unspecified team rule. Parker, who scored 15 points, had been the only Bucks player to start every game this season.

"This was a challenge," said Parker, who did not talk about why he was benched. "I tried to stay as positive as possible."

Milwaukee also benched rookie guard Malcolm Brogdon for basketball reasons.

In their place, Milwaukee started 7-1 rookie forward Thon Maker and veteran guard Matthew Dellavedova.

For Maker, the 10th player selected in the 2016 draft, it was his first NBA start. For Dellavedova, it was his first start since Dec. 28. He started Milwaukee's first 30 games this season, suffered a hamstring injury, missed five games and then came off the bench for the next seven.

Dellavedova scored 15 points against Miami, and Maker had six points.

But Milwaukee, which led only briefly in the first quarter, was outscored in every quarter.

The Heat, after shooting 42.1 percent in the first quarter, improved to 57.1 percent in the second, 57.9 percent in the third and 55.6 percent in the fourth. For the game, Miami shot 53.2 percent, and Milwaukee was held to 41.8 percent.

Waiters scored 10 points in each of the first two quarters for his most productive half of the season. He then scored seven in the third and six in the fourth, capping his night with a 3-pointer from the left corner with 55 seconds left.

After that shot, Waiters posed a bit, knowing that victory was certain with a 15-point lead.

It was the 13th and final three-pointer for Miami on the night as the Heat shot 43.3 percent from deep.

"Waiters did get going," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "Their backcourt (Waiters and Dragic) got going. Again, they were another team that shoots the 3. We've got to put more effort into our game defensively."

Whiteside, who along with Dragic is the Heat's franchise player, didn't have as large a role as in other games due to how well Miami's guards played.

But Whiteside wasn't complaining.

"Our guys are playing better," Whiteside said. "I don't know what's gotten into guys (during the win streak), but I like it. We're hitting shots. We're more consistent on three-pointers. I almost shot a 3."

No doubt the Heat are suddenly confident and riding their best win streak of the season. That streak will be put to the test on Monday night.

NOTES: Heat G Tyler Johnson (strained left shoulder) sat out after getting hurt in Miami's previous game, against the Dallas Mavericks. ... SF Giannis Antetokounmpo was named this week an All-Star starter, the first Bucks player to earn that honor in 31 years. He's the only player in the NBA who leads his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. ... Heat PF Chris Bosh, who has been sidelined since the 2016 All-Star Game due to blood clots, has interest from the Chicago Bulls. ESPN has reported that Chicago is considering signing Bosh -- assuming he gets medical clearance -- and reuniting him with ex-Heat SG Dwyane Wade. ... The Bucks are hoping to get SG Khris Middleton back next month. He has been out all season after surgery to repair a torn left hamstring. ... Milwaukee returns home to face the Houston Rockets on Monday.

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