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...
We're now past four minutes in - no Bucks points. Miami only has six though, so not so bad there.— Jeremy Schmidt (@Bucksketball) April 28, 2013
...for both teams.
Bucks open 0 for 4 with three turnovers.— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) April 28, 2013
Bucks call timeout. Miami up 8-5, even while shooting 2-for-11.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 28, 2013
But the Heat took an early lead, nonetheless.
For those wondering, no Wade thus far for Miami. Th early lead virtually guarantees his absence.— Jeremy Schmidt (@Bucksketball) April 28, 2013
The Bucks struggled throughout the first quarter, and they couldn't seem to get anything going...
Norris Cole and Rashard Lewis pick and roll down the heart of the Bucks defense. That's where the Bucks are at defensively.— Jeremy Schmidt (@Bucksketball) April 28, 2013
Yeah, about that... RT @alexboeder: Cole/Allen/Battier/Lewis/Andersen to start 2nd. Bucks really, really need to outscore this group.— Frank Madden (@brewhoop) April 28, 2013
Spoelstra just shouldn't even put LeBron or Bosh back in unless he has to. He might not.— Sean Highkin (@shighkinNBA) April 28, 2013
...until Monta Ellis decided to put the team on his back, bringing the Bucks within four by halftime.
Oh oh, Monta has scored 8 straight points for Milwaukee.— Dakota Schmidt (@Dakota_Schmidt) April 28, 2013
Bucks offense showed life at the end of the 2Q, except for a missed dunk and a killer TO by Luc Mbah a Moute. He's the brakes.— K L Chouinard (@AnaheimAmigos) April 28, 2013
But even with Milwaukee at Miami's heels, few expected much from the struggling Bucks in the second half.
PA announcer at halftime, "OK Bucks fans, we've got 24 minutes of playoff action left of Bucks basketball!" Uh, OK then.— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) April 28, 2013
Brandon Jennings finally showed some life...
First field goal for Brandon Jennings in his 16th minute.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 28, 2013
...but as a whole, the game lacked energy.
Tirico, "Am I wrong or is this missing the intensity of the playoffs? C'mon guys, this is the playoffs!" With you, Mike— SBNation NBA (@SBNationNBA) April 28, 2013
Not sure where Bucks fans can get refunds for their Game 4 tickets but this is awful.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) April 28, 2013
Both teams were frustrated with their subpar play.
Larry Sanders is very frustrated with Larry Sanders. He's missed some easy shots around the hoop. Cant' really afford those types of misses.— Jeremy Schmidt (@Bucksketball) April 28, 2013
LeBron James, the most frustrated I'v seen him in this series, just punched the chair next to him on the bench.— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) April 28, 2013
But even so, the Heat managed to maintain a steady lead.
Chris Bosh with another block. Active all game.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 28, 2013
Chris Bosh very active defensively. 4 blocked shots to go w/ 5 reb. Also 4-7, 10 pts. Udonis has 13 pts on 6-8. HEAT up 60-54 2:53 in3rd Q.— Tony Fiorentino (@TonyHEAT2xWC) April 28, 2013
The Bucks slowly began chipping away at the lead, thanks to Ellis and Mike Dunleavy.
Dunleavy triple cuts the Miami lead to 69-65. Holster the brooms for now.— Dime Smash! (@DimeSmash) April 28, 2013
HAVE IT ALL, MONTA!— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) April 28, 2013
However, LeBron James soon proved why he's the best player in the league.
And just like that, LeBron James makes two perfect passes in traffic to open shooters. Heat now lead 75-67.— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) April 28, 2013
In the process, Mario Chalmers—who had struggled all night—tied a franchise record.
Chalmers now tied with Hardaway (80) for most postseason three-pointers in franchise history.— Joseph Goodman (@JoeGoodmanJr) April 28, 2013
From there, the Miami Heat took off and never looked back.
Watching LeBron James in person is really something. James runs the Heat's offense & knows when to take over.— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) April 28, 2013
How to close out a series: 17 pts in a four-minute stretch in 4Q, including four 3-pointers and a 3-point play by LeBron.— Joseph Goodman (@JoeGoodmanJr) April 28, 2013
LeBron with a two-handed "Get out the Brooms" SMASH. Heat up 88-72 with 2:32 left— Dime Smash! (@DimeSmash) April 28, 2013
And proved why they deserve to be the title favorites.
I think the Heat have answered the question, "How little effort can you give while sweeping a playoff series?"— Sean Highkin (@shighkinNBA) April 28, 2013
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.