MILWAUKEE (AP)-- Toni Kukoc said his best game of the season was
simply a matter of taking what was available.
"Just the flow of the game, everything was pretty much right,"
he said Friday night after scoring 24 points, adding a career-high
14 rebounds and keying a decisive second-period surge that helped
the Milwaukee Bucks to a 103-94 victory over the Miami Heat.
Bucks coach Terry Porter had a more emphatic statement on
"He was huge for us," Porter said. "I went to him a lot."
Heat coach Stan Van Gundy was no less impressed.
"Kukoc was great. He got rolling and once he got rolling he's
pretty darn good," Van Gundy said. "He's a tough matchup for
anybody. He's a heck of a player."
The result of Kukoc's big game was that the Bucks won five in a
row for the first time this season, climbed to four games over .500
(20-16) for the first time since last Feb. 14 and won their eighth
straight home game.
The Heat, who lost for the third time in four games, were led by
Lamar Odom with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Rafer Alston had 17
points and Eddie Jones 15 and a season-high 11 assists. The Heat
have now lost four straight games to the Bucks going back to last
It was the Bucks' eighth victory in 10 games since Kukoc came
off the injured list Dec. 20 following a bout with back spasms, and
he was never more helpful than in the second quarter.
Kukoc poured in 14 points as the Bucks pulled away from the Heat
to lead 55-36 at halftime.
After a basket by Rasual Butler pulled the Heat within two
points, Kukoc had four points in a 10-0 run that put Milwaukee on
top 35-23 and he kept making baskets to help the Bucks to a
dominating halftime advantage.
"When you hit a couple shots, then the guy's got to play you
closer. Then you have the chance to penetrate, get to the
free-throw line. That's what happened," Kukoc said of why he got
hot so quickly.
Milwaukee led 78-63 after three periods, but Miami came roaring
back in the final quarter, cutting the deficit to 90-83 on a
3-pointer by Jones with just over five minutes left. Kukoc then
responded with a three of his own and the Heat never got that close
"They just made a lot of shots, their offense was really going
for them and we couldn't find the answer for them. We need to bring
the energy we had in the second half with us in the first half,"
said Caron Butler, who helped spark the comeback with a pair of
Heat rookie Dwayne Wade returned to the Bradley Center
where he starred for Marquette, but he did not play because of a
wrist injury. In a halftime ceremony, Wade received his ring from
college coach Tom Crean for helping Marquette to last season's
Conference USA championship. ..... In the second period, Kukoc made
5-of-7 shots from the field and had 7 rebounds. ... Lamar Odom's
first rebound of the game gave him 2,000 for his career. ...
Milwaukee center Dan Gadzuric, who sprained his right knee in
Wednesday night's win over Phoenix, did not play.