As far as playoff previews go, the end result of Tuesday's Bucks-Heat matchup in Miami seemed about right given everything we know about the two teams that will likely face off in the first round two weeks from now.
Competing for about 30 out of 48 minutes was enough to save the Bucks from embarrassment on a night when the Heat rested both Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, but it earned them little else as Miami pulled away in the third quarter and cruised to their franchise-record-tying 61st win. A big part of the trouble was LeBron James being LeBron James (27 points, 11/16 fg, 7 reb, 7 ast), though the efforts of Udonis Haslem (10 pts, 15 reb) and injections of life from Norris Cole (9 of his 11 points in the second quarter) helped steady the ship against a Bucks team that got 30 points from Brandon Jennings and very little from anyone else.
Early on it looked like Miami might run away from the opening tap, as the first quarter featured LeBron alley-ooping to himself, Udonis Haslem outrebounding the Bucks all by his lonesome, and the Heat justifiably up 11 midway through the opening stanza. But eight straight points from Jennings trimmed Miami's lead to 26-21 after one quarter, and the Bucks further rebounded from a 37-27 second quarter deficit behind threes from Mike Dunleavy, J.J. Redick, Monta Ellis and Jennings. Miami was getting too many second chance opportunities for the Bucks' liking, but the Heat's casual transition defense left the Bucks with plenty of chances of their own, too. James led Miami with 14 in the half, but even then he seemed to be holding back a bit as Miami continually failed to take advantage of the open looks James was regularly creating with his draw and kick game.
That sense faded quickly in the third, however, as James scored nine straight Miami points to start the half and then set up threes from Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers to extend Miami's lead to 11. Those triples also snapped a dreadful 1/18 Miami malaise from three point range, which in the grand scheme of things was the only thing keeping the Bucks in it through two-and-a-half quarters. Jennings did his best to keep the Bucks within shouting distance by adding nine in both the third and fourth quarters, but the Bucks were otherwise short on ideas and reasonable defensive efforts from Marquis Daniels and Luc Mbah a Moute weren't enough to keep James from getting wherever he needed to be.
The Bucks will look to salvage a Sunshine State split tomorrow when they visit the Magic, while the Heat will look for their 62nd win of the season in Washington on Wednesday.