MIAMI – Forward LeBron James scored 17 points to lead the Miami Heat to a 96-77 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
James, who played just 29 minutes in the rout, also had eight assists. Forward Chris Bosh added 15 points in 26 minutes for Miami.
Neither played in the fourth quarter.
Point guard Ramon Sessions led the undermanned Bucks with 19 points in 45 minutes.
With the two teams at the opposite ends of the NBA standings, Wednesday night’s game was as lopsided as expected. And the Heat, knowing the matchup lacked appeal, began selling playoff tickets at the game in an effort to attract fans.
Miami (52-22) won its fourth game in a row and kept its percentage-points lead over the Indiana Pacers in the battle for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers beat the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.
Milwaukee (14-61), which has the worst record in the NBA, lost for the 11th time in its past 12 games.
The Heat, playing without Dwyane Wade (hamstring injury), improved to 16-6 this season without their star shooting guard. They started out 5-6 without Wade but have won 11 of their past 12 without him.
Predictably, the Heat got off to a strong start against the lowly Bucks, finishing the first quarter with a 33-19 lead. The Heat shot 63.6 percent, getting nine points — including a three-pointer — from Bosh, and eight points and four assists from James.
Miami extended its lead to 56-38 at the half. Bosh had 13 points at the half, and James had 12.
In addition, Miami’s defense was strong, forcing 10 first-half turnovers. Milwaukee was held to 35 percent shooting in the first quarter and 43.8 percent in the second quarter.
Even though the game was not in doubt in the first half, there were still some tense moments as James took exception to what he felt was a hard foul.
Heat forward Udonis Haslem was hit with a technical foul when he became involved in a mostly-verbal altercation with a couple of Bucks players.
The Heat put things on cruise control in the second half, leading 77-57 after three quarters.
NOTES: Heat SG Dwyane Wade (hamstring) and C Greg Oden sat out their fourth game in a row. Wade has missed 23 games this season; Oden has not played in 52. Both are said to be feeling better. … Heat SG Ray Allen (flu) missed his fifth straight game. … Bucks G OJ Mayo (ankle) missed his fourth straight game but is close to returning. … There are only four Bucks players left from the team that made the playoffs last season with a 38-44 record, getting swept in the first round by the Heat. … From January 2013 to now, the Bucks have had three head coaches: Scott Skiles, Jim Boylan and Larry Drew. … Four Bucks are likely done for the season: C Larry Sanders (eye), G Carlos Delfino (knee), F Ersan Ilyasova (ankle) and G Nate Wolters (left hand). … Miami’s five-game homestand reaches the midway point on Friday against Minnesota. … Milwaukee’s three-game trip concludes Friday at Chicago.
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