The Miami Heat entered Game 4 of their opening series with the Milwaukee Bucks eyeing a sweep, and left with just that.
In what quickly proved to be a painfully slow showing from both squads, the Heat managed to outlast their eighth-seeded opponents, beating them 88-77 on the shoulders of LeBron James' game-high 30 points. The win allowed Miami to become the first team to move on to the second round.
The game began with each team lethargically trading possession, though the Heat jumped out to an early lead. The Bucks struggled out of the gate and fell behind early, despite poor play from Miami.
Similarly to other games in the series, the Bucks finished the half right at Miami's heels, as Monta Ellis flipped the switch in the closing minutes. He finished with 21 points, five rebounds and eight assists.
Despite the push from Milwaukee, however, the Heat never lost hold of the lead, as Chris Bosh's stellar defensive play (four blocks) and Udonis Haslem's 13 points in 19 minutes helped guide the Heat to victory.
The third quarter followed the lead set by the first half, with each team remaining within reach of one another, though the lackluster play continued.
Still, despite the Bucks' attempts to grab hold of the lead, it was evident that Miami was in full control and that a late surge would allow them to win with ease.
It wasn't until the fourth quarter that the Heat decided to wake up. Led by LeBron James, the top-seeded Miami squad extended their lead, and Milwaukee never seemed to recover.
By the end of the game, the Heat had managed to topple the Bucks, ending the series and—by extension—the Bucks' season.
Brandon Jennings, who may have played his final game in Milwaukee, showed minimal signs of life, finishing with just three points.
Miami will move on to face the winner of the Chicago Bulls and the Brooklyn Nets, a series in which Chicago leads 3-1.
The win was anything but unexpected, considering the pace at which the Heat had been rolling, and reaffirmed the notion that even in times of struggle, Miami is a top team in the league.
Things started off slow...
...for both teams.
But the Heat took an early lead, nonetheless.
The Bucks struggled throughout the first quarter, and they couldn't seem to get anything going...
...until Monta Ellis decided to put the team on his back, bringing the Bucks within four by halftime.
But even with Milwaukee at Miami's heels, few expected much from the struggling Bucks in the second half.
Brandon Jennings finally showed some life...
...but as a whole, the game lacked energy.
Both teams were frustrated with their subpar play.
But even so, the Heat managed to maintain a steady lead.
The Bucks slowly began chipping away at the lead, thanks to Ellis and Mike Dunleavy.
However, LeBron James soon proved why he's the best player in the league.
In the process, Mario Chalmers—who had struggled all night—tied a franchise record.
From there, the Miami Heat took off and never looked back.
And proved why they deserve to be the title favorites.
Though it remained close through three, Miami recovered in the fourth and finished up the series in dominant fashion.
As the first team to close out their first-round series, the team is rolling and has shown no signs of stopping.