Miami’s LeBron James goes in for a dunk during the first half of Game 4 of his NBA first round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday. The Heat won, 88-77, to win the series 4-0.
MILWAUKEE — If the Milwaukee Bucks were going to avoid a first-round sweep, Sunday would have been the day as top-seeded Miami opted to sit Dwyane Wade for a day.
Turns out, Miami didn’t even need Wade, who was sidelined by a sore knee that held him to just four points on 1-of-12 shooting in Game 3. Wade was a game-time decision Sunday for Game 4, which the Heat still won 88-77 over the Bucks.
Once again, veteran Ray Allen provided enough offense, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that had turned a two-point contest into another double-digit runaway for the defending world champions.
Allen finished with 16 points, giving him a 22.0 average in the four-game sweep — second on the team behind LeBron James, whose 30-point effort Sunday upped his average to 24.5 this postseason.
Allen was timely with his shots, especially late. Eight of his 16 points came in the fourth quarter.
“He has taken his game to another level and everyone on our team has noticed that,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He dove on the floor twice in the fourth quarter and his defense has been improving as well. This is the time of year that brings out another level in him and I’m glad we have him on our side.”
After Monta Ellis got Milwaukee to 69-67 with 9:34 to play, Allen answered with a three from the corner to put Miami back up by five, sparking an 18-5 run over the 7:02 that had Miami ahead, 88-72 when Bucks head coach called a 20 second time out with 2:32 remaining.
During that stretch, James scored seven and dished out four assists.
“We knew they were going to come out and play as hard as they could and with as much desperation as they could to try and continue the series,” James said. “They made a run and from that point, we were able to execute. Finding Ray, finding Shane (Battier) … it’s good to have the depth that we have so I can draw defenders and find open shooters.”
With James leading the way, the rest of the Heat were clicking. Udonis Haslem went 6-of-9 from the field and finished with 13 while Chris Bosh added 10 for Miami, which swept a postseason series for the first time during the Wade-James-Bosh era.
“We’re glad to get this, the first step on hopefully a long journey,” Spoelstra said. “It’s never as easy as it looks but it’s gratifying to get something we haven’t done before with this group, closing out a team, 4-0.”
As good as Miami had been in the series, the Bucks still had chances Sunday to at least steal one game and force fifth game. Milwaukee had a chance to tie the game at the end of the first half when, down 43-41, Luc Richard Mbah Moute overthrew an open J.J. Redick.
Instead, Allen took the steal and found James on the other end for a layup that gave Miami a five-point lead at half. The Bucks threatened again in the third, cutting the deficit to a point early on a Brandon Jennings 3-pointer -- his only basket of the game -- with 9:34 remaining in the quarter.
But Milwaukee committed turnovers on three of its next four possessions as Miami held firm and maintained a five-point lead into the fourth.
“Every time we made some sort of move, we’d make a turnover or they’d make a big play,” Bucks head coach Jim Boylan said. “When you play a team as good as Miami is and you make mistakes like that, they usually capitalize on them. And today, they did that.”
Ellis led Milwaukee with 21 points on 10-of-20 shooting with eight assists and five rebounds. Off the bench, Redick and Mike Dunleavy combined to go 10-of-20 from the field to finish with 10 and 17 points, respectively but as a team, Milwaukee show 37 percent from the field and made just 6 of 22 3-point attempts while turning the ball over 16 times and lost the rebounding battle, 42-37.
“It’s basketball,” said Ellis. “They’ve got a lot of great guys. They got to all the 50/50 plays they needed. When we were getting close, they’d hit shots when they needed to. They have the ability to turn it on and that’s what they did. They went out with the lead and came out with the lead.”
Jennings, who went just 1-of-7 from the field, sat out the final two minutes of the third and remained on the bench for the entire fourth quarter.
NOTES: Milwaukee’s starting backcourt of Brandon Jennings of Monta Ellis shot a combined 41-of-112 (36.6 percent) from the field and just 9-of-47 (19 percent) on 3-point attempts in the series, averaging 27.5 points per game. … Miami now advances to the Eastern Conference semifinals to face either Brooklyn or Chicago. The Bulls currently lead that series, 3-1. … The Bucks have lost five consecutive playoff series and 11 of their last 13, dating back to the 1988-89 season. Milwaukee hasn’t advanced past the first round reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001 … Allen made four 3-pointers Sunday and now has 325 for his career during the post-season, the most in NBA history.
CELTICS BEAT KNICKS IN OT TO FORCE GAME 5
BOSTON — Jeff Green turned out to be right.
After his team dropped Game 3 of its first round playoff series with the New York Knicks in Boston Friday night to go down 3-0, the Celtics forward said, “They haven’t won it yet.”
Now, there’s been a Game 4 and the Knicks still haven’t won it yet.
No NBA team has ever come back from 3-0 to win a series, but the Celtics took the first step Sunday, blowing a 20-point third-quarter lead but coming away with a 97-90 overtime victory that sends the series back to New York for Wednesday’s Game 5.
“We wanted to survive,” Kevin Garnett said after Jason Terry scored nine straight points in overtime to end seventh-seeded Boston’s six-game losing streak against the second-seeded Knicks. “This is the position we put ourselves in. To continue to play we’ve got to continue to win. That’s what it’s all about.”
Terry, who had been quiet in the series, erupted in the OT and Paul Pierce scored 29 points and Green 26 in the game as the Celtics, taking advantage of the Knicks missing a suspended J.R. Smith, avoided what would have been the seventh sweep in their 112 playoff series.
“At the end of the day this is it … it’s going to be a long summer so every game is crucial every possession,” Terry said. “This is the first time that we really came out with fire in our eyes; and I guess that’s because it’s elimination … every game from here on out is Game 7 for us.”
Terry came through in his 91st career playoff game. In other words, he’d been there before.
“He was great. That’s what he does,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after Terry doubled his game point total in the OT. “He’s made so many big shots in his career.”
Terry broke an 88-88 tie with a 3-pointer off a fast break with 1:32 left in the extra five minutes and then continued on to put the game away and keep the series afloat.
It was Terry who took an elbow from Smith, the league’s Sixth Man of the Year, in Game 3, leaving New York without a guy who had averaged 16.3 points per game on the year, and then Terry who did the OT damage.
Carmelo Anthony, suffering through a miserable shooting game that saw him go 10-for-35 from the floor, 0-for-7 from 3-point range, still managed 36 points (16-for-20 from the line with some big misses) while Raymond Felton, who led the comeback, had 11 points in a 14-3 run late in the third quarter.
Anthony was at least leaned on every time down the floor, and Brandon Bass fouled out as one who guarded him. “They were trying to be a lot more physical today,” Anthony said.
“I thought we had it,” said center Tyson Chandler, who had 11 rebounds. “We had every look that we wanted to, got big stops, we didn’t execute … I mean we executed we just didn’t knock down shots.”
Down 20 with 9:25 left in the third quarter, the Knicks roared back and actually led by two late in regulation.
Using a four-guard offense with Anthony on the bench with four fouls, the Knicks tied the game with 7:18 left, with Felton and Iman Shumpert (12 points, 12 rebounds) leading the way.
Garnett added 13 points and 17 rebounds and Pierce had eight rebounds and six assists; Boston winning despite getting only three offensive rebounds, compared to the Knicks’ 16, as New York ran up a 54-40 rebound advantage.
But Garnett, Pierce and Terry, and all their experience, led the way.
Terry, asked about the veteran leadership in the Celtics locker room, said, “Tremendous; when your leaders are KG, Pierce and myself we have too much pride. Getting swept is something that no man that’s been in this league that long wants to do; it’s disheartening. And so tonight again Game 7 type of intensity; the crowd felt it and now we have to go into a hostile environment, and they’re going to be trying to get it over with.
“They don’t want to come back here but we do.”
Without Smith, the Knicks got only seven points from the bench.
“Honestly, as far as J.R. goes, we miss him, I missed him out there,” Anthony said. “But J.R. being out there doesn’t change the way I shoot the basketball. Those are the shots I’ve been taking all series. They weren’t falling tonight.
“My mother always said, ‘There’ll be days like this.’ We’ll take it for what it’s worth, put this one behind us and get ready for Wednesday.”
“I’m not using (Smith’s absence) as an excuse,” said coach Mike Woodson. “We had enough tonight … we just have to go home and handle our business at home.”
NOTES: The Knicks have won 19 of their last 22 games, while the Celtics won for only the sixth time in their last 20. … New York had won the last six games between the two rivals. … Coming into this season, 103 NBA teams had 3-0 playoff, all prevailing. Only the 1951 Knicks, the 1994 Nuggets and 2003 Trailblazers rallied to force a Game 7. … Seen in the hallway before the game: Bruins forward Tyler Seguin, who had arrived early for the game at night. After the game, Ottawa Senators players, dressing across the hall from the Knicks, peered into the New York locker room, almost like fans. … Hours before the game, a fire alarm forced the evacuation (fans had yet to arrive) of TD Garden, but there was no problem inside. … A this day in history note: on April 28, 1958, future Knicks championship coach Red Holzman was added to Fuzzy Levane staff in New York. … Spotted in the crowd: former Celtics great K.C. Jones. … Woodson had a first-half technical foul. … Game 6, if necessary, is Friday night in Boston.
SPURS BEAT THE LAKERS TO SWEEP THE LA OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS
LOS ANGELES -- The San Antonio Spurs stomped all over the decimated and drama-filled Los Angeles Lakers 103-82 Sunday at Staples Center to claim a 4-0 sweep in their Western Conference playoff quarterfinal series.
In a Los Angeles season chock full of losses and lunacy, the last game was little different than the other 85, as much about Lakers’ dysfunction as the Spurs’ dominance.
San Antonio led by nine less than five minutes into the game, had an 18-point halftime lead and moved in front by as much as 22 in the third quarter as the Lakers’ hobbled roster was no match for the Spurs’ balance.
By then, Los Angeles was not only without Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace and Jodie Meeks, but also Dwight Howard.
The center was ejected after picking up his second technical foul with 9 minutes, 51 seconds left in the third quarter, exiting the game to little hurrah. Bryant then limped out to the floor, on crutches due to his torn Achilles tendon, emerging from the locker room to a standing ovation before taking his seat behind the bench.
Even with Bryant and Co., the Lakers may not have been able to overcome a Spurs team playing some of its best basketball of the season.
San Antonio forced 22 turnovers and held Los Angeles to 29.4 percent 3-point shooting. The Lakers also hurt their cause with 41.7 percent free-throw shooting.
The Spurs held the Los Angeles backcourt of Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock to 22 points after allowing 44 points in a 31-point win Friday.
Tony Parker had 23 points to lead San Antonio, which had five players in double-figures. Kawhi Leonard and DeJuan Blair added 13 apiece for the Spurs.
Pau Gasol had 16 points and eight rebounds to lead Los Angeles. Goudelock had 14 points, and Antawn Jamison added 12 off the bench.
NOTES: While the Lakers were without a bevy of players, San Antonio was without Tiago Splitter (ankle), Boris Diaw (back) and the recently signed Tracy McGrady. … San Antonio won the regular-season series 2-1 after also taking two of three from Los Angeles last season. All three regular-season games between the two teams were decided by fewer than six points: two- and three- point Spurs wins and a five-point Lakers home win on April 14. … The Spurs and Lakers have met in the playoffs 11 times, the most for San Antonio against another opponent. … Los Angeles have won 38 of 49 first-round series since moving from Minneapolis. … The Lakers entered the game with an 81 percent playoff home winning percentage since moving to Staples Center. … Both teams finished the regular season ranked in the top six in the NBA in scoring (San Antonio, fourth, 103 ppg; Los Angeles, sixth, 102.2 ppg) but the Spurs were also ranked in the top 10 in opposing scoring, while the Lakers ranked 24th. … Duncan is the all-time leader in playoff defensive rebounds with 1,696.