Digging holes to see if you can climb out is not a recipe for success in the NBA.
The Milwaukee Bucks dug too many, too deep Saturday night.
The Bucks erased a 17-point deficit in the first half, but a wretched third period left them another big hole they couldn’t get out of in a 94-87 loss to the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena.
The defeat snapped a four-game winning streak for the Bucks (22-10), who missed a chance to pick up ground on the Toronto Raptors, 126-101 losers at Philadelphia.
The Heat sent multiple defenders at Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo all night long, holding him to nine points on 3-of-12 shooting, Khris Middleton went 7 for 18 to lead the Bucks with 18 points, and Eric Bledsoe added 17 but only went 4 for 12.
As a team, the Bucks shot just 37.3% (31 for 83), including a dismal 9 for 43 (20.9%) on 3-pointers, The only two players to make at least half their shots were Sterling Brown (4 for 7) and George Hill (4 for 6).
Josh Richardson scored 16 to lead Miami (15-16), which won its fourth straight, and Dwyane Wade added 13, including two huge pullup jumpers in the final 1:57.
Playing quite possibly their worst quarter of the year, the Bucks trailed, 21-8, after one. The deficit reached 17 points at 26-9 on Kelly Olynyk’s 3-pointer with 10:45 left in the half. From there, the Bucks finally got it going. They made their only four 3-pointers of the half in the final six minutes, closing the half with a 29-11 rush after Olynyk’s 3-pointer.
Tony Snell’s 3-pointer from the right corner with 0.9 seconds left gave the Bucks a 38-37 lead at the half.
Instead of capitalizing on that momentum to open the second half, the Bucks returned to their awful ways of the first quarter. Miami opened the third quarter with a 14-2 run, making four 3-pointers. At that point of the game, the Bucks were 4 for 23 from beyond the arc.
The Heat led, 72-58 after three and made it a 16-point lead at 74-58 in the first minute of the fourth quarter, as it took the Bucks two minutes to get their first points of the quarter.
They were still down 15 when Khris Middleton made a 3-pointer with 7:10 left. A 3-point play by Eric Bledsoe suddenly put momentum in the Bucks’ favor. Then D.J. Wilson drilled a line-drive 3-pointer and the Bucks were within six with 5;56 left.
Middleton’s 4-point play cut it to 79-75 with 4:55 left, and Snell’s triple suddenly had the Bucks within 82-81 with 2:42 left.
But that’s where the rally ended. Wade made two pullup jumpers down the stretch, and the Bucks just couldn’t answer.