Heat Rally Past Nets to Reach Eastern Finals
MIAMI – 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 was the 10th straight series victory 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. “You have to have that throughout the course of each game, each possession and obviously through the series. 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 knocked the ball away from Joe Johnson on the game’s final play, 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.”
Chris Bosh scored 16 and Allen finished with 13 for Miami. Johnson had 34 points, Paul Pierce scored 19 and Deron Williams had 17 for the Nets.
“We fought back and hung in there this year,” Williams said. “A lot of people counted us out.”
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.
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.
Kerr spurns Knicks to coach G.S.
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – The Golden State Warriors are taking another chance on a television analyst and former NBA guard who has never been a head coach at any level.
The Warriors won the bidding war with the New York Knicks for Steve Kerr on Wednesday, hiring him away from the TNT broadcast table to be their coach. Kerr agreed to a five-year, $25 million deal with Golden State, said his agent, Mike Tannenbaum.
The Warriors confirmed the agreement Wednesday night and said they will introduce Kerr at a news conference after the contract is complete.
Kerr had been in talks with the Knicks about becoming their coach since Phil Jackson took over as team president in March. He won three titles playing for Jackson in Chicago and another two under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio.