LeBron James and the Miami Heat eliminated the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday afternoon.
Entering this series, Brandon Jennings made headlines with his prediction that the Milwaukee Bucks would beat the Miami Heat in six games. Needless to say, things didn’t go as planned. The Bucks have been swept following an 88-77 loss at home on Sunday.
To begin the contest, the two teams looked drastically different in terms of ball control. The Heat assisted on all but one of their first-quarter field goals, while the Bucks turned the ball over seven times.
With the potential to earn a few extra days off, it was important that the Heat remained focused. Their energy was high early, their rotations were swift and they held the dynamic duo of Jennings and Monta Ellis to zero points in the opening quarter.
But as we’ve seen throughout this series, the Bucks were able to keep things close in the first half.
Despite a clean start for the Heat, Milwaukee started forcing turnovers to close out the second quarter. For the first time all game, it was turning defense into offense, and it pulled within four to begin the third period.
The second half began and that theme continued. Miami couldn't pull away with missed three-pointers and a surplus of turnovers, but with the game on the line, talent and confidence proved to be too much for Milwaukee to handle.
This wasn't a case of the Heat flipping the switch; it was an example of a great team taking down a lesser opponent with a subpar effort. That effort will have to improve in the second round, but with a few days off, this team will have the time to refuel and get ready for another run at a title.
LeBron James may dominate the ball night in and night out, but Mario Chalmers did a good job of taking on the responsibilities of a point guard.
Chalmers has taken blame in the past for poor decision-making, but his basketball IQ was on display with smart passes. He knew where the ball was supposed to be, collecting six assists and grabbing two steals.
The point guard didn't get his first bucket until the fourth quarter, but it was a big three-pointer to help push the game in Miami's favor.
He finished with three points and eight rebounds.
Brandon Jennings backed up his prediction in Game 1 with a 26-point performance. Unfortunately, he was unable to replicate that showing at any point in this series, which is a big reason the Milwaukee Bucks will watch the rest of the playoffs from home.
Jennings didn't make his first shot until the nine-and-a-half-minute mark of the third quarter—his only make of the day. He missed his first four shots, and while he's the kind of player who can get going quickly, that wasn't the case this time.
It's no secret that the 23-year-old had high hopes for this series, but he's finishing the season with a sour taste in his mouth.
Like Brandon Jennings, it took Monta Ellis a long time to get going. He played limited minutes in the first quarter, meaning he didn't tally his first two points until about the nine-minute mark of the second period.
Once he hit his first shot, he appeared to have a new energy. He began the contest seemingly disinterested, but like any volume scorer, the rim got bigger with every basket he made.
Unfortunately for Ellis, he showed a bit of a regression when LeBron James was matched up against him one-on-one. He managed to record 21 points, five rebounds and eight assists, but when under duress, it was difficult for him to make plays.
He turned the ball over six times and missed three of his four long-range shots.
With Dwyane Wade out, the Miami Heat opted to start 33-year-old Mike Miller. The temporary starter got off to a rough beginning, as he committed two personal fouls in his first seven minutes.
From a shooting standpoint, Miller underwhelmed. He made just two of his seven shots, including a 1-of-5 finish from behind the arc, but he did manage to dish out four assists.
Needless to say, this was not a memorable game for Miller. Not every outing can be Game 5 in the 2012 NBA Finals, but you'd like to see a little more efficiency with the team's No. 2 option sidelined.
LeBron James was on autopilot Sunday afternoon, but it was a look that fit him, as he made everything he did look effortless.
Despite a bit of a slow start, James finished with 30 points on 65 percent shooting. He did turn the ball over five times, but he nearly made up for it with three steals and a blocked shot.
This wasn't one of those games where James does all the dirty work, but it didn't have to be. He turned a quiet game into a complete takeover, and he's the reason the Heat are moving on after a clean sweep.
Ersan Ilyasova is a very good shooter. He shot 44.4 percent from deep range in 2012-13, and he knocked down better than 46 percent of his total field goals.
Unfortunately for the Milwaukee Bucks, that stroke was nowhere to be found with the season on the line.
Ilyasova finished the game with eight points on 3-of-13 shooting. He only completed one of his four three-point attempts, and while he did grab nine rebounds along the way, that hardly makes up for such a poor offensive performance.
Udonis Haslem has been known to quietly put up solid performances, and Sunday was another example of what he can do while staying in the background.
In just 19 minutes, the big man pulled down five rebounds, all on the defensive end. That side of the floor also saw him collect two blocks.
What's surprising is the offensive production. In such little time on the court, Haslem scored 13 points. He shot 6-of-9.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Like Haslem, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was quiet in Game 4. Unlike Haslem, few will be calling him a vital part of his team's success.
The 26-year-old was a team-worst minus-14 in the plus-minus category. He never found his shot, and while he did knock down five of his six free throws, he completed just two of his seven field goals.
Chris Bosh came out and played an efficient first half of basketball. He made three of his five shots in 16 minutes, and he was spreading the floor, as he's done throughout his career.
The power forward-turned-center did a good job of impacting more than just the points column. He pulled down boards and blocked shots.
Outside of Bosh's four blocks, his stat line won't blow anybody away. Ten points and five rebounds aren't what you hope for from your second option (with Dwyane Wade on the bench), but he knew when to let LeBron James go to work, which is all you can ask for.
To being this game, Larry Sanders was the best player on the floor for the Milwaukee Bucks. He was playing inspired basketball on both sides of the floor, and he was showing fans once again why he deserves any Defensive Player of the Year consideration thrown his way.
In the first quarter alone, Sanders had three blocks. Unfortunately for the team, he wasn't able to grab any more in his 31 minutes.
While Sanders was showing the ability to score early, that too came to a halt. He ended the game with seven points on 33 percent shooting, but he did grab 11 boards.
Ray Allen entered this game with a ton of momentum. He was coming off a brilliant shooting performance that saw him score 23 points on 57.1 percent shooting, and that positive energy carried forward into Game 4.
Straight off the bench, Allen hit two of his first three shots—both three-pointers—and scored eight points in his first three minutes. As you might expect, that pace slowed down throughout the afternoon, but it was another example of how the 37-year-old can still have an impact.
In the city where Allen began his career, the 2-guard scored 16 points in 29 minutes. He shot 50 percent from the floor, including 4-of-7 from downtown, and he grabbed seven rebounds along the way.
Mike Dunleavy has played a strong series against the Miami Heat, and that continued on Sunday.
The small forward entered the game having shot 57.1 percent from the field, including 40 percent from long range. In this one, he knocked down five of his nine shots, hit three out of six from behind the arc and knocked down four out of five free throws.
Dunleavy scored 17 points in 28 minutes and gave good energy in the team's final game of the year.
With Mike Miller forced into the starting lineup, the Miami Heat's second unit lost some of its depth entering Game 4. However, you wouldn't know it by watching, as the reserves put together another solid showing.
With Ray Allen taking on the scoring role, balance and energy is all Miami needed. Shooting was a problem, as the bench combined for just 2-of-10 in the first half (not including Allen), but the effort was always there.
The Heat are one of the toughest teams to defend in transition, and that theme holds true when the reserves are on the floor. Norris Cole did a good job of leading the charge when given the chance, and nobody made any mistakes that could have cost the team a Game 4 victory.
The two main contributors off the bench for the Milwaukee Bucks were Mike Dunleavy and J.J. Redick. Both players brought shooting to the table, and they combined for 27 points.
While the scoring was important in this game, the bigger story was efficient shooting. The two players combined for 10-of-20 from the field, which was important considering nobody else produced off the bench.
Defensively, Ekpe Udoh showed flashes of productivity, but like those who came before him, he had trouble containing the Heat possession after possession.