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Bucks struggle in opener, fall to Heat 110-87

(AP) Bucks struggle in opener, fall to Heat 110-87
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer
MIAMI
So many things went the way the Milwaukee Bucks wanted. LeBron James matched his playoff-low for shots in a game, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were held in relative check and the Miami Heat turned the ball over far more than usual.

And none of it really mattered.

Game 1 was a Heat blowout, as probably everyone outside of Milwaukee would have expected.

James scored 27 points on 9 for 11 shooting _ finishing two assists shy of a triple-double _ while Ray Allen scored 20 off the bench and the defending champion Heat picked up where they left off in the NBA playoffs a year ago, never trailing on the way to beating the Bucks 110-87 to open their Eastern Conference first-round series.

"Second half, they just came out and we kind of had no answer for them," said Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, who led Milwaukee with 26 points.

Jennings and Monta Ellis were the majority of Milwaukee's offense, the starting Bucks' backcourt combining for 48 points in all. The rest of the Bucks managed 39, and against the Heat, that almost surely won't be enough.

James finished with 10 rebounds and eight assists, both game-highs.

"All I care about is the win," James said. "I didn't even know my stats. I just knew that we were playing efficient offensively besides the turnovers. We want to try to keep that going."

Wade scored 16, Bosh added 15 and Chris Andersen finished with 10 on 4 for 4 shooting for the Heat, who opened their title defense by holding Milwaukee to 42 percent shooting and outrebounding the Bucks 46-31.

Game 2 is Tuesday in Miami.

"We've got nothing to lose," Jennings said. "Nobody should be scared or anything. Let's just hoop."

James had taken only 11 shots in a playoff game twice before, and his postseason per-game average entering Sunday was just under 21 tries. But with the way he controlled the game Sunday, he didn't exactly need to shoot.

That's probably not the best of signs for the Bucks.

"Obviously, incredibly efficient," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. "When you have a game like that, what can you do?"

Milwaukee came into the series with Jennings predicting his team would oust the reigning champions in six games.

They'll have to win four of five now for that to happen.

And with James playing like this, the odds would seem particularly slim. His assist total was only six shy of what the Bucks managed, combined.

"That's about as efficient as you can get," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Made that look easier than it was."

The 23-point margin notwithstanding, it was far from a perfect night for Miami. The Heat shot only 30 percent from 3-point range, plus turned the ball over 19 times _ giving Milwaukee 22 points _ and still won with ease.

Milwaukee had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, zero in the second half.

"I think we played good basketball in stretches," Ellis said. "They're a great team. They capitalized on our mistakes. I think they were more aggressive towards the end. In the third and fourth, they never looked back."

One issue for Milwaukee was center Larry Sanders' foul trouble. He finished with six points, five rebounds and five fouls in 18 minutes, never being the factor the Bucks needed.

"I couldn't be as aggressive as I wanted to," Sanders said. "I tried to get myself going. I had to re-start my motor a couple of times. But that's part of the game."

The Bucks said coming into Game 1 that they would brace for Miami to come out flying, and the Heat more than delivered on that expectation. Miami scored on its first five possessions and after back-to-back scores at the rim by James _ the first of those a vicious one-handed slam after Wade set him up on a 3-on-1 break _ the Heat were up 21-8 early.

Milwaukee got 26-24 at the end of the first, with Jennings scoring 10 in the period. And the Bucks hung around for the remainder of the first half, with the Miami lead just 52-45 going into intermission.

"I thought in the first half we played with some good energy, had some good ball movement, created some turnovers and took advantage of that," Boylan said. "In the third quarter they came out a little bit more focused ... with a little more purpose, I think."

Ellis opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer, getting the Bucks within four. Then came the second big Heat flurry of the night, and the Bucks had no more answers.

An 11-1 Miami run immediately followed that 3-pointer by Ellis, stretching the lead to 14. Miami closed the quarter with seven straight points _ James started that burst with a left-handed slam, then set up Andersen for another dunk. Another dunk by Andersen, this time when he soared in for a two-handed flush of a missed 3-pointer by Shane Battier, sent the building into overdrive, with people in the "White Hot" crowd waving their giveaway T-shirts in unison.

Anderson flapped his arms _ he's called "Birdman" for a reason _ and the Heat improved to an uncanny 40-3 when he plays.

"He brings us a lot of energy and effort plays," James said. "He flies above the rim and we're so happy to have him."

The fourth quarter took on a familiar feel as several Heat regular-season games did, with the only question being if James would get a triple-double, as he got in the clinching Game 5 of last season's NBA Finals.

He finished a bit short, and left with a broad smile.

"It's a great way to start the series," Bosh said. "They're a feisty team over there. We wanted to make sure that we played good on defense and keep doing what we've been doing."

NOTES: Miami outrebounded Milwaukee 22-9 after halftime. ... The Heat stayed with what was their normal regular-season rotation, with Udonis Haslem starting and allowing Bosh to play more away from the basket _ which paid off by him making a pair of 3-pointers in the first 4 minutes. ... Rihanna was in attendance. ... Miami's bench outscored Milwaukee's reserves 43-25.

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