The Bucks battled back valiantly from an 18-point first half deficit and led by as many as seven in the fourth quarter, but huge nights from LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade overwhelmed the Bucks in overtime.
So this is why they're called the Big Three.
The Bucks had no answers for LeBron James (28 pts, 10 rebs, 8 ast), Chris Bosh (24 pts, 18 rebs), and Dwyane Wade (28 pts, 11/21 fg) in the early going on Wednesday, and for about 18 minutes it looked like the Bucks were going to be run out of the building. Milwaukee came out flat and careless in the first quarter, feeding Miami's effortless transition attack with turnovers and missed shots. While Tobias Harris (11 pts, 6 rebs) hardly embarrassed himself going against James in the early going , he had little help as Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings started the game a combined 1/9 from the field.
But the game reached a curious turning point midway through the second when Larry Sanders suffered another breakdown. After a questionable foul call on a Wade drive, Sanders spiked the ball for his first technical and drew a second for antagonizing the officials a few seconds later. But the Heat appeared to let off thereafter and the Bucks began to run off Miami misses and turnovers, with Jennings getting loose to score his first eight points of the game in a 16-2 run to close out the half. The exclamation point came on Sam Dalembert's improbable three with under a second left that closed the Miami lead to 46-44, the first triple of Dalembert's NBA career.
The two teams battled gamely throughout the second half with John Henson the surprising inspiration in Sanders' absence. Filling in for the ejected Sanders, the rookie combined energy, activity and a smooth jump shot to establish career-highs with 17 points (7/12 fg) and 18 rebounds, including a tip-in at the third quarter buzzer to make it 73-71 Bucks heading into the fourth.
The Bucks defended gamely to take a 91-84 lead on Henson's jumper with 4:50 left, made all the more improbable considering Ellis struggled all game (4/16 fg, 9 pts, 4 ast, 5 to), Jennings missed eight of his last nine shots (9/25 fg, 19 pts, 7 reb, 6 ast, 5 stl, 0 to) and the Bucks couldn't buy a three for most of the night (5/29). Instead, Mike Dunleavy (even with his long range touch absent), Henson and Ekpe Udoh kept finding ways to score, but James, Wade and Bosh answered them at every turn and then some. The Bucks twice took leads on buckets by Dunleavy and Udoh in the final 80 seconds, but James tied it with 26 seconds left and Ellis and Henson missed chances to win it on the Bucks' final possession. Miami still had a chance to win it with 1.4 seconds left, but Ellis swatted Wade's difficult leaner to send it to OT.
The OT was all Miami, as Ellis and Dunleavy had early turnovers and the Bucks had no answer for James, Bosh, Wade and Ray Allen in Miami's halfcourt sets. Wade buried a long two on the extra session's first possession and Allen's open three would late give Miami a 109-100 lead to seal it as the Bucks appeared to run out of gas.