Miami Heat back in East finals
MIAMI (AP) – A game, a series, a season, they all would hinge on one shot.
That is, if the shot was taken.
Ray Allen and LeBron James would have none of that. They swarmed Brooklyn sharpshooter Joe Johnson and knocked the ball away – twice, actually – in the final moments, and the Miami Heat reached the NBA Eastern Conference finals for the fourth consecutive year by rallying past the Brooklyn Nets 96-94 last night.
Miami led for only 32 seconds after half-time – the final 32 seconds.
“It’s always been like that for us,” James said. “It’s never easy. It’s never easy for us.”
Sure looks easy. It was the tenth straight series win for the two-time defending NBA champions.
James scored 29 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 and Allen hit the three-pointer that gave Miami their first and only lead since the second quarter. The Heat won the series 4-1, a far cry from the 4-0 edge Brooklyn had in the regular-season matchups between the clubs.
“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.”
For much of the night, Brooklyn were making enough plays.
The Nets led by ten points in the third quarter and got a virtuoso performance from Johnson, a game-high 34 points on 15 for 23 shooting. He just never got that 24th shot off.
Johnson took an inbounds pass in the right corner with 4.4 seconds left, was defended by James as he worked toward the lane, and lost the ball when Allen got his right hand on it with 1.8 seconds left. Johnson grabbed the ball but James knocked it away as time ran out.
“Obviously, we thought this was a game we should have won,” Johnson said.
Chris Bosh scored 16 and Allen finished with 13 for Miami, now back in the East finals for the sixth time since 2005. Paul Pierce scored 19 and Deron Williams had 17 for the Nets, who led by eight with 4:49 minutes remaining – and didn’t score again until the final moments, after the Heat put together a 12-0 run that decided everything.