MIAMI (AP) -- Sam Cassell did enough damage in three quarters
that his team barely needed him down the stretch.
Cassell held the hot hand for the second straight game, scoring
25 points as the Milwaukee Bucks climbed back to .500 with a 100-91
victory over the Miami Heat on Tuesday night.
Milwaukee moved one
game ahead of Washington for the eighth and final playoff berth in
the Eastern Conference.
Cassell followed his 28-point outing Sunday against Atlanta with
a strong effort against the Heat, despite not scoring in the fourth
quarter. He was 9-of-14 and added five rebounds and three assists
to help the Bucks win for just the third time in their last 10
While Cassell provided the offense for three quarters, the
Bucks' defense took over in the fourth, holding the Heat to 8-of-29
"We started playing defense in the fourth quarter," Bucks
guard Gary Payton said. "We didn't play defense in the third
quarter. Once we started getting rebounds, it started getting a lot
easier. We crowded the paint and made them shoot tough shots to see
how they'll do.
"It's all about defense, about who can stop who."
The Heat were without leading scorer Eddie Jones, who sprained
his right ankle in practice Monday and is expected to miss at least
Cassell had 25 points through three quarters, helping the Bucks
to a 73-70 lead. That's when his teammates stepped up. Toni Kukoc
drained a 3-pointer, Payton scored on a driving layup, and Ervin
Johnson connected on a jump hook to push the lead to 82-72 with
The Heat, meantime, went scoreless for the first four minutes of
the fourth period, missing their first five shots before Malik
Allen knocked down a jumper. Miami made just two of 12 shots to
open the period, falling from three points down to a 12-point
"We were down by (three) points at the end of the third
quarter," Miami coach Pat Riley said. "With the exception of when
Anthony Carter was on the court, the team did not play with energy.
We didn't play with the kind of energy that we need: tenacious,
relentless energy to run, defend and cut. We had some guys
absolutely sleepwalking for four or five minutes."
The Heat pulled within 92-87 on Travis Best's jumper with 1:45
left, but Tim Thomas closed the door, hitting a 3-pointer with 55
seconds to go.
Brian Grant had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat, who have
dropped seven of their last nine games. Rookie Caron Butler scored
15 points, and Allen and Eddie House each added 14.
The Bucks, mindful of their late-season collapse last year, are
aware of the importance of every game.
"If we don't play serious basketball in March, we won't make
it," Bucks coach George Karl said. "If we can get through March,
with all of our road games, with a winning record, I think we will
make the playoffs. But if we don't have a winning record in March,
then we're going to need a hell of an April."
The Bucks snapped a four-game skid against the Heat. ...
With Jones out, Mike James started for just the sixth time this
year for the Heat. ... The Bucks are 9-17 against in Miami. ...
Allen had double-digit rebounds for the second straight game, the
first time he has done that in his career. Allen finished with 12
rebounds after getting 10 against the Wizards on Sunday.