Bogut leads Bucks past sliding Heat again, 97-81

MIAMI: Andrew Bogut had 22 points and 11 rebounds, Carlos Delfino finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks beat Miami for the second time in three nights, 97-81 Monday to climb within two games of the slumping Heat for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.

Charlie Bell and Hakim Warrick each scored 12 for the Bucks, who outscored Miami 54-27 over the final 19 1/2 minutes of the first half and never lost control.

Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 23 points, including single-handedly scoring the first 11 of the game. From there, the Heat went shockingly cold, setting season-worsts by shooting 17.6 percent in the first quarter and 27.5 percent in the half.

Michael Beasley scored 16 and Udonis Haslem finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds for Miami, which has lost four of its past five and plays only one more home game in the next three weeks.

The Bucks used a dominant second quarter to take full control on the way to downing Miami 95-84 in Milwaukee on Saturday night. They didn't even wait that long to seize the upper hand in this one.

Wade needed only 4:25 to score the first 11 points, seven of those from the foul line as Miami ran out to its best start of the season.

Then, thud.

Even with Wade's early heroics, the lead didn't last long. Milwaukee started the half 0 for 10 — and then made 19 of its next 30 heading into the break.

Bogut's line alone basically told the story for Milwaukee, which improved to 11-1 since the start of last season when the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft gets at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Now back to .500 at 24-24, it's really the wrong time for the Heat to be sliding.

A daunting stretch — maybe the defining part of the season's schedule — has arrived.

Miami plays eight of its next nine on the road, with five games left before the All-Star break. Of those, four are on the road against teams who started Monday ahead of the Heat in the Eastern Conference standings: Boston, Cleveland, Chicago and Atlanta, with the lone home game against Houston on Feb. 9.

Then after the break, Miami opens with games at Philadelphia, New Jersey, Memphis and Dallas in a five-night span.

"There's no secret that our schedule before the All-Star break is probably as tough as it gets, pretty much," Wade said before the game. "So you can't really think ahead too much. We know that for us to be where we want to be ... the position where we've been in all year, where we're in the fifth seed, we've got to take care of business."

And that didn't happen on Monday.

Miami got within 59-49 in the third quarter, before the Bucks connected for 3-pointers on three straight possessions — the last two by Bell — to push the lead back to 17, and one of the smaller Heat home crowds of the season was left eerily silent.

NOTES: Beasley played with a large, bulky knee brace protecting his hyperextended right knee. ... The Heat were without starting center Jermaine O'Neal (back spasms). ... The Bucks improved to 9-7 since the calendar flipped to 2010. "We don't ever want to measure ourselves by the .500 mark, either. We want to have bigger goals than that," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. ... Miami starting forward Quentin Richardson hasn't topped the 10-point scoring mark in 14 of his past 17 games.