Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 12/30/12
MILWAUKEE Earlier this week, Bucks coach Scott Skiles was asked whether his team was respected throughout the NBA. Of course, he said he didn't know how to answer. But if there were any question whether the Milwaukee Bucks are a legitimate playoff team in the Eastern Conference, they answered that query about as emphatically as they could with Saturday's 101-85 statement win against the Miami Heat. After playing a great first half, the Bucks took a haymaker from the defending champions. Milwaukee opened the third quarter by making 3 of 24 shots as Miami went on a 27-6 run to take a 71-62 lead with 2:40 left in the period. The Bucks had stopped moving the ball, and the sold-out BMO Harris Bradley Center went from rocking to quiet enough to hear a small contingent of Heat fans above the dither. Then, in perhaps its best stretch of basketball of the season, Milwaukee outscored the Heat, 42-14, the rest of the way. Playoff-like atmosphere is an overused descriptor, but the arena had a different feel Saturday. Even the usually buttoned-down Skiles got animated during a timeout amid Miami's run, stomping his feet and letting Bucks center Larry Sanders have it. His message was simple: Get back to playing our game. "There's no magic dust. I shouldn't get any credit for that," Skiles said. "Other than we talked about that we were too slow. We were kind of just walking into our sets. "We played a very good first half in large part because we got to create our pace out there. Then we came out in the third and missed some layups and shots but also just kind of starting walking up and down the floor. That's not really our game. We don't play very well when we do that." Saturday's win alone doesn't cement Milwaukee's place among the playoff teams in the Eastern Conference, but it's the most convincing argument so far that this team is the real deal. The Bucks are 14-6 against the Eastern Conference this season, and only the Los Angeles Clippers have more conference wins in the entire league. The Bucks also now have eight wins against the other eight teams currently in the East's playoff mix. Still, this is a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2010, one that knows there is much work to be done to extend a 16-12 overall record that has the Bucks tied for first place in the Central Division. "It's a win against the defending champions and one of the best teams in the league right now, so it means a lot, especially on our home floor where we've struggled against some good teams," Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy said. "But at the end of day they, all count the same. If you look at this win, you feel great about it. "Then you have games against Cleveland, at Charlotte, at New Orleans where, man, I wish we would have won those, too. I'll take it for tonight, it was a nice win, but we have to bounce back tomorrow night." Who knows the respect level the Bucks would command if they hadn't dropped the three games Dunleavy mentioned, but that's a moot point. All Milwaukee can do now is make sure it beats last-place Detroit on Sunday, and in the meantime, the Bucks are picking up believers. "Milwaukee kicked our butt," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "They were the better team tonight." So Skiles probably doesn't have to guess what the rest of the league thinks of his team. He's also becoming more sure of what he thinks of it. "It's clear when we are playing our best, how we have to play," Skiles said. "I think that's clear. It's just getting it a little more consistently. "I know they know it. We've talked about it, they know it. There's no resistance or anything, it's not that easy always four games in five nights to peel the ball off the net and get up the floor with some energy. Like a lot of teams, that's when we play our best." For all but one nine-minute stretch Saturday, Milwaukee was at its best, leaving little doubt this is a team that has turned a corner. Follow Andrew Gruman on Twitter.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Todd Bowles confirms Ryan Fitzpatrick is Jets starting QB: ‘It’s his job’

Carmelo Anthony shocked Dwyane Wade left Miami for Chicago

Report: David Lee signs with the Spurs

Craig Sager to miss Olympics while undergoing bone marrow transplant

Jarryd Hayne wouldn’t have retired if NFL had minor league system


Draymond Green: ‘Me and LeBron are friends’

Pierre-Paul won't need to wear club on hand this season

Report: Four cities remain in contention to host 2017 NBA ASG

Doc Rivers: Clippers have plan to let Paul Pierce retire as a Celtic

Another young 49er, Kaleb Ramsey, retires from NFL

Saints GM: Drew Brees’ contract situation is not a ‘distraction’

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Hue Jackson: Browns will give Josh Gordon a fresh start

Diamondbacks nearing Daniel Hudson trade

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

What would George Costanza have traded to get Bonds and Griffey?

Gabby Douglas can make USA Gymnastics history at Olympics

Week 3 will determine the Big Ten's reputation this season

Cam Talbot thinks the Oilers are close to making the playoffs

The new era of WWE SmackDown has liftoff

Vlade Divac: Cousins ‘most dominant player in the world’

Wild offer to make Prince's 'Let's Go Crazy' new goal song

Canucks don't dismiss acquiring player with past issues

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker