Nets 94 – Heat 96 (Miami wins 4-1)
Ray Allen was the one who left that Celtics team led by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to join the defending champion Miami Heat in 2012 in search of another title. Times have changed since then.
On Wednesday night in Miami, Allen was the one who helped the Heat eliminate Pierce and KG from playoff contention by burying a clutch three-pointer with 32 seconds left in the game to give the Heat a two-point lead. He also made two free-throws in the final minute to seal the victory for the Heat 96-94 over the veteran-driven Brooklyn Nets.
“We’re lucky we got that guy on our side,” Dwyane Wade said. “He was 0-6 ‘til he hit that last three. No matter what goes on, we want the ball in Ray’s hand at that time, and that’s why he’s the greatest shooter of all time.”
LeBron James also reiterated about how important Allen is to the success of the Miami Heat.
“We didn’t bring Ray here for the regular season,” James said. “Ray is a piece to help us win a Championship. This is the time of the year for him. He seized the moment in this series and he was big time for us throughout these five games.”
Allen finished this five-game series against the Nets averaging 13 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the field and 94 percent from the free-throw line.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra drew up a pick-and-pop play during a Heat timeout with 43 seconds left in the game. LeBron had the ball at the top of the key and Mario Chalmers came to set on screen for him. Both defenders stayed with LeBron, which left Chalmers open at the top of the key for a three. Chalmers had an open look and, no doubt about it, wanted that shot, but he actually thought better of it and kicked it to (arguably the best shooter of all time) Allen to hit the shot. The Heat executed the play to perfection and it ended up with three points. Execution was something that the Nets struggled with in crunch time.
Nets forward Joe Johnson carried the Nets throughout the game. Every time the Nets needed a big bucket to stop a Heat run or to quiet the crowd, Johnson was the one to do it. He finished the game with 34 points on 15-23 shooting and 7 rebounds. The burden just became too much for him to handle on his own in the final four minutes of the game. None of the Nets players were able to get good looks at the basket.
“Down the stretch, I thought we were playing too cautious,” Johnson said. “We were playing against the clock, not being aggressive or making plays. The clock got down to five and three and we were taking tough shots. We made it hard on ourselves.”
With 4:49 remaining in the game, that’s when LeBron and the Heat defense really put the clamps on Johnson and the Nets offense. LeBron made Johnson work hard to get the ball and if JJ did get the ball, LeBron tried to force him to drive because he knew help was behind him. The Heat closed the game on a 13-3 run to clinch the series. Allen finished with 13 points on 4-10 shooting.
Now the Heat will have to play the waiting game to see who they will have to play next. Will it be the long-awaited rematch of the 2013 East Finals with the Pacers? Or will it be a divisional matchup vs the surging young Wizards? Lots of basketball still left to be played.—Nick Wilke
Spurs 104 – Blazers 82 (San Antonio wins 4-1)
It’s fun out there for a Spurs fan.
Last night, the San Antonio Spurs blew out the Portland Trail Blazers for the fourth time in five games to advance to the Western Conference Finals—their third consecutive trip.
After their Game 4 loss at the Moda Center, the Spurs bounced back strong at home to do what they do better than any other team in the League: win.
Although all five of Portland’s starters scored double figures, the Spurs wrapped up the Blazers nice and tight for safe shipping back to Oregon—without the help of their star guard in Tony Parker. TP9 left the game for good in the second quarter with a left hamstring injury, having played only 10 minutes and scoring zero points.
No Parker, no problem (for last night at least). Both Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard—dubbed Sugar K Leonard thanks to Shaq the Analyst—put up 22 points for their Texas team last night. Sugar K grabbed five steals too, and his Spurs had 33 fast break points on the night, as opposed to the Blazers’ six.
What began as a close game, all tied up at 19 after the first quarter, transformed into a dominant Spurs lead, who went up 15 in the 2Q. At the half, the Blazers narrowed the gap to seven.
But with eight Portland turnovers in the third, the Spurs outscored their opponents 26-19. Turnovers were a huge disadvantage for the Blazers, who gave the ball up 18 times, which the Spurs subsequently converted into 20 points.
The Spurs’ bench performance again was strong, led by Patty Mills’ 18 points. They outscored the Blazers’ reserves 40-7.
With this series taken care of in five games, the vets now have some time off to rest, which is extra helpful with Tony Parker’s hamstring situation.
Portland too, has some time to rest—albeit a much longer rest. Maybe people won’t write them off so quickly next season. With the Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge duo (who each had a double-double last night by the way) developing admirably, this is a team to look out for. Props, Portland.
And congratulations, San Antonio. See you in the next round.—Habeeba Husain