The Miami Heat are the hottest team in the NBA, and on Friday they will put their 20-game winning streak to the test against the Milwaukee Bucks in a potential preview of a first-round series in the 2013 NBA Playoffs. The Heat are currently the runaway No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and the Bucks the No. 8 seed, so the they are on a crash course for a post-season meeting. It's a bit strange, but the Bucks have actually given the Heat some problems over the last few seasons.
In the last six head-to-head meetings, the Bucks are 4-2 against Miami. Brandon Jennings has struggled against Miami over the course of his career -- he has averaged just 15.7 points on 34.4 percent shooting in 11 career games against the Heat -- but he has put up at least one terrific performance in a win over LeBron and company at the BMO Harris Bradley Center (31 points, eight assists, zero turnovers on Feb. 1, 2012).
LeBron has owned the Bucks. In 35 games against Milwaukee, LBJ has posted 29.4 points on 49.7 percent shooting, 7.4 rebounds and 7.0 assists per contest, which makes the recent trend in the matchup so strange. Things may not be the same for the Bucks now that Scott Skiles is gone, however:
The Bucks could very well end Miami's streak, but it won't be for the same reasons they won a regular season game in 2010, or even in 2012.— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) March 14, 2013
These Bucks, since Scott Skiles left, give up the most shot attempts at the rim in the league (by far) and 7th most corner threes.— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) March 14, 2013
Long-time Bucks fans are familiar with a 20-game winning streak, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and the 1970-71 Bucks ripped off 20-straight victories during their championship season. That mark stands as the third-longest winning streak in NBA history.
This time around, the Bucks simply need a win to stop a discouraging losing streak. Milwaukee has won six of seven games and started to creep up on the Hawks, Bulls and Celtics for the No. 7 seed, but they promptly lost consecutive games to the Mavericks and Wizards. Brandon Jennings knows it's a big game for the Bucks (via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel):
"We need this game more than they do," Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings said. "We'll be ready. This is a team we can see the first round of the playoffs.
"This will be a good challenge. It will be a playoff atmosphere, anyway."
If the Bucks want to avoid the Heat in the playoffs, they may need to take them head-on right now.
Miami is a six-point favorite on the road, according to Odds Shark, and the over/under for the game is 202 points.