MIAMI — The Miami Heat, which routed the lowly Milwaukee Bucks 96-77 Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, is learning to play without shooting guard Dwyane Wade.
In fact, as long as forward LeBron James is healthy, it seems like Heat coach Erik Spoelstra can use any combination and still have success.
“This is our norm,” said Spoelstra, referring to a lineup that was again missing several players. “It seems game to game, we find out late who is available and who is not.”
Wade sat out his fourth straight game due to a hamstring injury and missed 23 games this season.
The Heat started the season 5-6 in games without Wade but is 11-1 since.
The Heat were also without center Greg Oden on Wednesday — he missed his fourth straight game due to a back injury.
Heat reserve guard Ray Allen was supposed to be ready, but, after the shoot-around, Spoelstra decided to keep him out for a fifth straight game due to a stomach virus.
“He went through his whole routine, and his legs started to feel weak,” Spoelstra said. “He’s not super human.”
James led the Heat in points (17) and assists (8) and played just 29 minutes. Forward Chris Bosh added 15 points in 26 minutes for Miami. And Heat point guard Mario Chalmers was the only other double-figure scorer with 14 points.
“Overall, I liked our effort,” said Bosh, who, like James, was not needed in the fourth quarter. “In the Eastern Conference, these are mostly the type of games we are going to have, so we have to take care of business.”
Point guard Ramon Sessions led the undermanned Bucks with 19 points in 45 minutes.
Other contributors for the Bucks included forward Jeff Adrien (14 points), guard Brandon Knight (11 points), forward John Henson (10 points) and center Zaza Pachulia (8 points, 16 rebounds).
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.
And with the two teams at the opposite ends of the NBA standings, Wednesday night’s game was as lopsided as expected. Knowing the matchup lacked appeal, the Heat began selling playoff tickets at the game site in an effort to attract fans.
The Heat got off to a strong start against the Bucks, finishing the first quarter with a 33-19 lead after shooting 63.6 percent.
“Against a team like (the Heat), falling behind by 14 points in the first quarter is tough,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “But there was no reason to panic, and we didn’t.”
Miami extended its lead to 56-38 at the half. Bosh had 13 points at the half, and James had 12.
The Heat put things on cruise control in the second half, leading 77-57 after three quarters.
Drew said the final seven games on Milwaukee’s schedule serve as an opportunity to analyze his players.
“I want to see our guys compete,” he said. “We are dealing with adverse times. We want guys who can handle adversity.”
As for the Heat, everyone on their roster knows to stay ready. Forward James Jones went 31 games in a row as a healthy scratch and is now part of the rotation.
Guard Toney Douglas, who had nine points and seven rebounds Wednesday, went from the bench to a starter’s role — at least while Wade is out.
Forward Udonis Haslem is now starting after a long stretch on the bench. Forward Rashard Lewis is now in the rotation while forwards Shane Battier and Michael Beasley, temporarily at least, are getting little if any playing time.
“All the guys have to be ready,” Bosh said. “You never know when we might need you.”
NOTES: 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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