The Miami Heat didn’t play perfectly for all four quarters in Game 4 of their opening-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks, but did play their best when it counted in notching a 88-77 series-ending win Sunday afternoon. Without an injured Dwyane Wade, LeBron James scored 30 points and the Heat used a 15-5 run in the fourth to seal the victory and advance to the second round of the playoffs via a sweep.
The biggest storyline entering Sunday afternoon was the health of Wade, who has dealt with soreness in his knee from bone bruises for most of the past few months. It cost Wade seven of the final 10 games of the regular season and in large part led to his disappointing 1-of-12 shooting performance in Game 3 against Milwaukee on Thursday night. And just moments before tipoff Sunday, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra elected to rest Wade for cautionary reasons.
Still, Wade’s teammates did enough to help the Heat sweep Milwaukee and move on to the second round.
For Miami, LeBron James was the star. The three-time MVP put together a typically brilliant all-around performance with 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Chris Bosh added 10 points, five rebounds and a team-high four blocks.
The difference for Miami was another strong performance from their role players. Without Wade, a number of players stepped up. Ray Allen scored 16 points, including a couple of deadly fourth-quarter three-point shots, to clinch the victory. Udonis Haslem added 13 points and Mario Chalmers chipped in eight rebounds and six assists.
Milwaukee’s season is now over, thanks in large part because of their inability to get key contributions from their most important players. Monta Ellis was the only starter in double figures (21 points), and the Bucks got a poor effort from point guard Brandon Jennings, who finished with just three points. Even strong play off the bench from Mike Dunleavy and J.J. Redick (who combined for 27 points) wasn’t enough to keep Milwaukee from getting eliminated.
Miami now gets to sit back and wait for a winner to emerge from the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and the Chicago Bulls. Chicago notched a thrilling triple-overtime victory over the Nets Saturday to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
Keys to the Game:
Can the Bucks stop the Heat role players?: The answer was "not really." While only two players outside of LeBron James and Chris Bosh scored in double figures for Miami, they were both crucial to victory.
Allen played as well as anyone not named "LeBron James." He had eight in the first half to help Miami build a four-point cushion at intermission, and hit a couple huge three-pointers in the fourth.
Will the Bucks spread the floor?: Milwaukee certainly tried, although their 6-of-22 shooting from three-point range pretty much sums up how their efforts went. Dunleavy was 3-of-6 off the bench, but the rest of his teammates were abysmal. In particular, the Bucks three perimeter starters -- Jennings, Ellis and Ersan Ilyasova -- combined to shoot 3-of-12 from beyond the arc.
Will Milwaukee avoid a second-half Miami burst?: If this question had been posed at the end of the third quarter, the answer would’ve been "yes," but unfortunately the Bucks couldn’t continue to hold back Miami in the fourth. The Heat used a 15-5 run to seal the win and advance to the next round.