We are getting closer and closer to crowning our 2013-14′ NBA Champion. We got that much closer on Wednesday night after two conference semifinal match ups came to a close. If you missed any of the action in the NBA Playoffs last night, you can catch the video highlights and a recap for all of it here. Recaps courtesy of Sports Illustrated.
Miami Heat 96 – Brooklyn Nets 94
Heat win series 4-1
LeBron James leaped onto a courtside table as the postgame celebration was starting, thumped his chest and punched the air.
Next stop: The Eastern Conference finals. Again.
James scored 29 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 and Ray Allen delivered two huge plays in the final seconds as the Heat rallied to beat the Brooklyn Nets 96-94 on Wednesday night, winning the second-round matchup 4-1.
”It’s always been like that for us,” James said. ”It’s never easy. It’s never easy for us.”
Sure looks easy, though. It was the 10th straight series win for the two-time defending NBA champions.
”When we met the first day for prep we said the No. 1 key, overwhelmingly the No. 1 key in this series, was great mental stability,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
”That’s what it was down the stretch … incredible focus.”
Incredible defense, too, when it was needed most.
Down by eight with less than five minutes left, the Heat forced Brooklyn into nine straight missed shots while peeling off a 12-0 run to take the lead. Allen’s 3-pointer off an assist by Mario Chalmers with 32 seconds remaining was the go-ahead moment, and the Heat wouldn’t trail again.
Allen disrupted Joe Johnson‘s dribble on the game’s final play, James then swiped the ball out of everyone’s reach, time expired – and the Heat advanced.
”Give the Heat credit,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. ”They were attacking there in the fourth quarter. We were attacking. Both teams were attacking. They made plays, they made shots and we didn’t.”
It’s the sixth trip to the East title series in the last 10 seasons for Miami, which is bidding for a fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals – something only the Lakers and Celtics franchises have accomplished.
James is heading to the East finals for the sixth time in eight seasons, the first two of those trips coming with Cleveland in 2007 and 2009.
The Heat will next face either fifth-seeded Washington or top-seeded Indiana. The Pacers lead that series 3-2, one win away from setting up a rematch with Miami that seemed like an absolute certainty for much of the season.
”Obviously, we thought this was a game we should have won,” Johnson said.
Brooklyn led 49-42 at the half, with Miami missing 15 of its first 16 tries from 3-point range. The Nets closed the half on an 8-0 run and the lone bright spot in the opening 24 minutes for Miami was Wade, who had 20 points – more than any other two players to that point combined – on 7-for-12 shooting.
”He has a way, right? He’s a playoff warrior,” Spoelstra said.
Eventually, barely, Miami broke through. But it took most of the second half to get there, since whenever Miami tried to put together a run Brooklyn found a way to keep things together.
- A layup from James late in the third got the Heat within three; a minute later, the margin was eight again.
- A free throw from James with 9:03 left cut Brooklyn’s lead to 77-73; less than a minute later, it was 82-73 after a 3-pointer by Pierce.
- A 3-pointer by Bosh made it a four-point game again; two Brooklyn possessions and zero Miami stops later, it was 86-78 after a sensational step-back jumper by Johnson. And when Johnson connected on another tough shot with 4:49 left, it was 91-83 and the Nets could sense that the night would be theirs.
Then the Heat scored the next 12 points, and that was enough.
Barely, but enough.
”For us, it was just about getting stops,” Wade said. ”We knew offensively that we needed to execute, but we knew we weren’t going to win the game unless we got some stops.”
For the Nets, more than $180 million in salary and luxury tax was supposed to bring a championship. Instead, billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov got only a trip to the second round as his return on a massive investment. Brooklyn lost center Brook Lopez to a broken foot after 17 games, struggled through the first two months of the season, then turned it on after Jan. 1.
”We fought back and hung in there this year,” Williams said. ”A lot of people counted us out.”
Some big decisions – mainly regarding the futures of Pierce and Kevin Garnett – will have to be made by the Nets. Pierce will be a free agent; Garnett has a year left on his deal, though it’s been speculated he will consider retirement.
Garnett left without comment.
”Emotions are too fresh right now,” Pierce said.
Miami’s future is more clear. The East finals await.
NOTES: Wade had 12 points in the first quarter, his highest-scoring output from an opening period in his last 179 regular-season and playoff games. … Both of Johnson’s 30-point games in these playoffs came on the road. He had 32 at Toronto on April 30.
San Antonio Spurs 104 – Portland Trail Blazers 82
Spurs win series 4-1
The veteran San Antonio Spurs showed Portland a few things about succeeding in the playoffs. The biggest lesson was how not to panic when an All-Star goes down.
Patty Mills scored 18 points and Tim Duncan had 16 points and eight rebounds for San Antonio, which had four blowout victories in the five-game series.
It’s the third straight conference finals appearance for San Antonio, which lost a heartbreaking seven-game series to the Miami Heat in last season’s NBA Finals.
San Antonio, which had the NBA’s best record, will await the winner of the series between Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Thunder have a 3-2 lead.
”Whoever’s the best team, I want to play them,” Leonard said. ”It’s gonna prepare us for the (NBA) finals.”
With Parker forced to exit in the first half with a hamstring injury, Leonard, Mills and Green pressed the action on both ends.
San Antonio finished with 13 steals, including five for Leonard, while forcing 18 turnovers.
”My mindset was just trying to be aggressive on the offensive end,” Leonard said. ”Just knowing Tony was out, he’s very aggressive and still try to stick with our system. Play our offense, move the ball, just try to be a little more aggressive.”
The Spurs also had 24 assists on 42 baskets, shooting 47 percent from the field, and had 43 fast-break points.
”They definitely showed us about moving the ball around,” Aldridge said ”They made five or six passes every possession down. It just makes your defense tired and just makes guys make mistakes. They definitely showed use where we are trying to go.”
After playing with various injuries throughout last postseason, the Spurs had been healthy in these playoffs until Wednesday.
After returning to the court with 9:46 remaining in the second quarter following his normal rest, Parker left the game exactly a minute later. He headed back to the locker room followed closely by San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford and team physician, Dr. Paul Saenz.
”Luckily we have a couple of days,” Duncan said. ”It worries us, obviously, but he’s been going hard. He’s had a great series thus far, and it just kind of caught up with him. They pulled the plug on him before he hurt himself. He started to feel a little weird and they did the right thing. Hopefully that helps; hopefully there’s nothing there.”
Parker was scoreless in 10 minutes, missing his only two shots as Portland pushed to keep the All-Star point guard out of the paint.
With Parker out, the Spurs’ bench outscored the Trail Blazers’ 40-7.
”Everybody stepped up,” forward Boris Diaw said. ”We have a very solid team, a very deep bench.”
The lack of bench production was especially critical considering how Splitter and the Spurs were able to contain Aldridge.
After averaging 29.8 points in Portland’s upset of Houston in the opening round of the playoffs, Aldridge was limited to 21.8 points.
”I don’t know maybe you can tell me,” Aldridge said when asked about the Spurs’ defense. ”I had the same looks. I actually got to the rim more in this series than in last series. I just missed easy shots. I have to be better for us to win. I definitely didn’t play well in this series so it was tough for us to win games.”
Even with Parker slowed, the Spurs still had another good start thanks to their hustle on the boards.
Tiago Splitter had two offensive rebounds in the opening 3 minutes. The Spurs, who were averaging 9.3 offensive rebounds in the postseason, had five in the first quarter alone.
Mills provided a huge spark even before Parker’s exit.
The energetic Aussie sprinted for a layup after tipping away C.J. McCollum‘s dribble in the backcourt. A possession later, Mills blocked Lillard’s 3-pointer, igniting a fast break that led to Green’s first 3 of the game.
”What Patty (Mills) did today was outstanding,” Ginobili said. ”Patty, Danny, and Kawhi, especially, were fantastic. We struggled all series in the third quarters, and they really stepped up. They were aggressive, getting steals, running the transition and ones we got that lead back to 20, it kind of felt like it was over.”
Green had the strongest effort of the postseason, going 4 for 6 on 3s.
San Antonio had four 3s in the second quarter, with Leonard’s second extending its lead to 43-30 with 4:47 remaining in the half.
NOTES: Portland G Mo Williams (groin) missed his third straight game. After scoring six points on 3-for-11 shooting in the series opener, Williams exited Game 2 after nine minutes with a strained groin and has not played since. . Meb Keflezighi, the first American man to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years, was in attendance.