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Little guys provide Bucks spark over Heat

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MILWAUKEE — Heading into his team’s game Friday night, Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd was nervous about a severe lack of available big men.

Forward Ersan Ilyasova was out with a broken nose and a slight concussion; forward John Henson was dealing with a sprained foot and center Larry Sanders was questionable because of an illness.

Turns out, the Bucks were just fine without them.

Milwaukee’s guards provided more than enough firepower; backup point guard Kendall Marshall led the way with 20 points off the bench as the Bucks snapped a three-game losing streak with a 109-85 victory over the Miami Heat in front of 16,325 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

“Kendall has been playing well for us,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “We have a lot of guards and he works extremely hard. Even before, when he wasn’t playing as much, but he’s stayed ready and whenever he comes in, he’s been positive for us.”

Marshall’s scoring established a new career high and came on 7 of 8 shooting from the field, pacing a Bucks offense that shot 56 percent for the game and featured six double-figure scorers.

Forwards Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton each finished with 14 points — the latter two both hitting 6 of 9 from the field.

“We did a great job as a team of being ready and bouncing back from a rough spot,” Marshall said. “This is a great way for us to go into a tough little stretch.”

Milwaukee was strong on defense, too, holding Miami to 44 percent shooting while dominating the Heat on the boards, 45-20.

“They didn’t miss too many shots,” said Miami guard Dwyane Wade. “When you give up 56 percent from the field, there aren’t that many rebounds out there for you, so it’s a slant there but it’s a lot to overcome.”

The Bucks took over in the third quarter, starting with a 3-point play by Antetokounmpo with 2:48 left in the period. Bayless swiped the ball from Miami guard Shabazz Napier and passed to Parker, who found Antetokounmpo on the baseline for the dunk.

Heat center Chris Bosh was called for a foul on the play and after Antetokounmpo made his free throw, the Bucks held a 70-69 lead.

Milwaukee closed the quarter on a 13-2 run and made eight of eight free throw attempts over the final three minutes of the third.

“We got the into the bonus early in the third,” Heat coach Erik Spolestra said. “It became a close game with free throws, turnovers and a couple of empty possessions and just like that, it was a double digit game and from there, it just went.”

Guard Dwyane Wade dished out eight assists and hit 10 of 18 shots to lead Miami with 28 points. Bosh added 21 with six rebounds.

“Things haven’t been going our way for a while so we should be quite used to it,” Bosh said. “We had too many turnovers; I know I had too many turnovers. I’m letting them tip the ball. I have to start keeping it high.”

Up four to open the second half, the Bucks shot 54 percent in the third and went 11 of 13 from the free-throw line. They closed the quarter on a 13-2 run to take a nine-point lead into the fourth, leading by as many as 19 down the stretch.

Seven Bucks turnovers led to nine points for Miami, which held a 30-25 lead through one quarter and ran up an 11-point lead with a 6-0 run to open the second.

Milwaukee answered with a run of its own, rattling off nine in a row to get within two and finally took the lead on an alley-oop from Bayless to Knight with 4:22 left in the half.

The Bucks shot 61 percent and outscored Miami 29-20 in the quarter to take a 54-50 lead into halftime.

NOTES: Bucks C Larry Sanders played Friday despite battling illness. Bucks coach Jason Kidd would have been left with only Zaza Paculia to play center as Ersan Ilyasova (facial fracture/concussion), John Henson (sprained left foot) and Johnny O’Bryant (knee) were all unavailable. “We’ll play all the Smurfs if that’s what it takes to win,” Kidd said of his lack of big men. … F Chris Andersen (ankle) and F Luol Deng (bruised right hand) were out for Miami on Friday. … F Danny Granger was in Miami’s starting lineup Friday. Before the game, Heat coach Erick Spolestra said Granger and PG Norris Cole would be game-time decisions. Both are battling illnesses.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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