MILWAUKEE (AP) – Miami’s Big Three finally have their sweep.
LeBron James scored 30, Ray Allen had another big game against his old team and the Miami Heat advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals with an 88-77 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday. It’s the first time the Heat have swept a playoff series since James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami three years ago.
And the Heat didn’t even need Wade to do it. The guard missed a postseason game for the second time in his career and first since 2005 due to three bone bruises on his right knee.
But the Heat still advanced handily, winning their fourth straight game by double digits. Wade will get plenty of time to rest now, too. The Heat will face the winner of the Brooklyn Nets-Chicago Bulls series – Chicago leads 3-1 – but the next round won’t begin until next Saturday.
Allen had 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range. Udonis Haslem added 13 points and five rebounds, and Mario Chalmers kicked in eight rebounds and six assists.
Monta Ellis led the Bucks with 21 points, and Larry Sanders had 11 rebounds to go with seven points. But Milwaukee got almost nothing from Brandon Jennings, who didn’t even play in the fourth quarter. Jennings, who had guaranteed the Bucks would win the series in six games, finished with three points on 1-of-7 shooting and had two turnovers.
The Heat had won the first three games easily. But that was with Wade on the floor. He led Miami in scoring in Game 2, and his defense was key in Game 3.
But Wade got knocked around hard Thursday night, and the Heat decided it wasn’t worth risking further aggravating his knee Sunday. Wade missed six games near the end of the regular season with three bone bruises around his right knee – one above, below and to the side of the kneecap.
Wade got treatment “around the clock” on Friday and Saturday, and tested the knee before the game. Though he was active and sat on the bench in his warmups, a large ice bag on his knee made it clear he wasn’t going to play.
And, really, there was no need.
The Heat never trailed, and James almost single-handedly made sure the series wasn’t going back to Miami. In addition to his 30 points, James had eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
With Milwaukee fumbling and bumbling the ball early – the Bucks had seven of their 16 turnovers in the first quarter – Allen got the Heat off to a quick start. He scored all but two points during a 10-2 run that put Miami up 22-13 with 1:24 left in the first, and the Heat would extend their lead to as much as 11 in the first half.
But the Bucks steadily chipped away. When Mike Dunleavy drained a 3 and Ellis scored on a floater, it cut Miami’s lead to 69-67 with 9:34 to play.
Ellis was fouled by Allen on the play, but he missed the free throw and James grabbed the rebound. He fed Allen, who knocked down – what else? a 3. J.J. Redick missed a long 3 and James found an open Chalmers for another 3 that gave the Heat a 75-67 lead with 8:27 left.
The 3 was Chalmers’ 80th in the postseason, tying Tim Hardaway’s franchise record.
After Luc Richard Mbah a Moute made the second of two free throws, James scored on a layup. Redick made a jumper, but Shane Battier and Allen closed out the Bucks with a pair of 3’s.
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