There were surprises in the Heat’s 94-83 win against Milwaukee on Tuesday night, at least to those on the outside.
There was the surprise of surprise starter Shane Battier winning a tip.
“U.D. asked me did I want to do it,” LeBron James said of Udonis Haslem. “And I said, no, I’m gonna pass. I said Rio (Mario Chalmers), you should go. Of course, he’ll do anything, he’s crazy and confident at the same time. And then Shane took over.”
“I take special pride in the intangibles,” Battier said. “So when I win a jump ball, it’s special, I enjoy it. No one in that arena expected me to win it, and I’m probably not going to win another one again.”
There was the surprise, on a night the Heat’s sharpshooters struggled from deep, of Chris Andersen stroking a 3-pointer.
“He shot it like that was the play,” Ray Allen said. “He’s shot plenty of them. He works on it, that’s the thing. Before games, on the road, we shoot, and he works on that shot.”
There was the surprise of James passing off the backboard to himself for a dunk.
“I actually got outsmarted,” James said. “Monta (Ellis) really outsmarted me, and I had to outsmart him, too. I was going to Mike (Miller) and he kind of played the passing lane, so I had to make an in-flight adjustment.”
But other stuff was not so much of a surprise, given the stark talent disparity between the two teams, even with Chris Bosh absent due to the flu and Dwyane Wade sitting due to a sore knee.
This game that solidified the playoff picture, and all but guaranteed these teams would be first-round opponents, served to emphasize that the Bucks will need plenty of breaks merely to make that series slightly interesting. Even with Brandon Jennings scoring an unusually efficient 30 points, and Miami missing 18 of its first 19 shots from behind the arc, the Heat pulled away easily.
The Heat won their franchise record-tying 61st game of the season in such a way that it should quiet any boasting by the Bucks that they match up well, a story line that stemmed from Milwaukee winning four of the first nine games between the teams in the Big 3 era.
The Heat have won the last two with little trouble, and it’s hard to envision much changing considering Milwaukee’s limited roster. In 2011 and 2012, Miami has won its first-round series — against Philadelphia and New York — in five games apiece.
This one screams sweep.
Marquis Daniels, at age 32 and 2 inches shorter than James, can’t do much to disturb the Heat star, who finished with 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists with precious little perspiration. And backup Luc Mbah a Moute, while a bit more rugged, isn’t equipped either.
“He’s on a different planet right now,” Bucks swingman Mike Dunleavy said of James. “He’s got complete control of the game whenever he wants it.”
Ellis, who compared himself favorably to Wade earlier this season, couldn’t exploit Miller, hitting 3 of 8 shots to raise his shooting accuracy against the Heat this season to an embarrassing 30.1 percent. J.J. Redick, acquired to add perimeter punch, made just 2 of 9 attempts.
And after assorted Bucks frontcourt players had enjoyed success against Miami in earlier meetings, none made much impact Tuesday; Andersen and Haslem outworked the group for 19 points and 24 rebounds in 46 minutes.
“U.D., like quite a few guys on our team, they know what time of year it is,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
It’s almost playoff time.
The intensity may be higher, but — at the start — the opponent will be the same.
“Hopefully, there’s not a lot we can take from this game,” Spoelstra said. “Hopefully, we’ll be at full health.”
Which means a full plate of trouble for the Bucks.
Noteworthy: Wade made it through shootaround and a pregame workout without any reported problems. Bosh was not expected to make the trip to Washington for Wednesday’s game. … Battier, who started in Bosh’s place, was voted the winner of the Pro Basketball Writers Association’s Magic Johnson Award for cooperation with the media. … At halftime, the Heat honored Dan Majerle as part of their 25th anniversary celebration. Majerle signed with the Heat in 1996 after the NBA voided Juwan Howard’s contract. Howard played two minutes of garbage time Tuesday.