Heat, Spurs Sweep NBA Playoff Series as Celtics Defeat Knicks

The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs moved into the second round of the National Basketball Association playoffs by completing first-round sweeps, while the Boston Celtics kept their season alive with a 97-90 overtime win against the New York Knicks.

The defending NBA champion Heat defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 88-77 yesterday to win their best-of-seven Eastern Conference series 4-0. The Heat won all four games by at least 11 points and used a 19-5 fourth-quarter scoring run yesterday to break open a two-point game.

“This is the first step in our journey, hopefully a long journey,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said at a news conference. “It was gratifying to get something we haven’t done before with this group: to close out a team 4-0.”

LeBron James finished with 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for Miami, which won without Dwyane Wade, and next faces the Chicago Bulls or Brooklyn Nets. The Bulls hold a three-games-to-one lead and can win their best-of-seven first-round Eastern Conference series with a victory tonight in Brooklyn, New York.

The Spurs ended the Los Angeles Lakers’ season last night, winning 103-82 behind 23 points from Tony Parker. Dwight Howard was ejected during the third quarter for the Lakers, which were outscored by an average of 18.8 points, the fourth-biggest differential in a best-of-seven NBA playoff series.

San Antonio, the second seed in the Western Conference, will face the Golden State Warriors or Denver Nuggets in the second round. The Warriors beat the Nuggets 115-101 last night in Oakland, California, as Stephen Curry scored 22 of his 31 points in the third quarter.

Today’s Games

There are two NBA playoff games today in addition to the Bulls-Nets matchup. The Oklahoma City Thunder, the top seed in the West, seek to complete a four-game sweep as they visit the Houston Rockets, and the Atlanta Hawks host the Indiana Pacers as they look to even their Eastern Conference series 2-2.

The Heat, the No. 1 seed in the East, failed to sweep their opening-round playoff series the previous two years, with Game 4 losses.

James helped prevent that from happening again, scoring seven points in a fourth-quarter run that pushed Miami’s lead from 69-67 to 88-72 with 2 minutes, 41 seconds remaining.

“Anytime they tested us, we were able to withstand that and bounce back,” James said.

No Wade

Ray Allen had 16 points and Udonis Haslem added 13 for the Heat, which played without Wade because of bone bruises on his right knee. Wade, an All-Star guard, had missed only one other post-season game in his career.

The Celtics avoided elimination by outscoring the Knicks 13-6 in overtime after blowing a 59-39 second-half lead.

Jason Terry scored the final nine points for Boston, including a three-pointer that snapped an 88-88 tie with 1:31 left, denying the Knicks their first playoff series win since 2000.

“The heart of a champion was what kept us going,” Terry said in a televised interview. “They’re a great team, but we’re not done yet. It’s a long series.”

Paul Pierce had 29 points and eight rebounds to lead the Celtics, while Jeff Green contributed 26 points and Kevin Garnett had 13 points and 17 rebounds for the home team.

Carmelo Anthony scored 36 points for New York, though he missed 25 of 35 shot attempts. Raymond Felton supplied another 27 for the Knicks, who shot 34.4 percent.

New York leads the best-of-seven series by three games to one and can secure its first playoff series win in 13 years with a victory at Madison Square Garden in New York on May 1. No team has ever won a seven-game series in the NBA playoffs after losing the first three games.

Lakers Exit

The Spurs never trailed in sending the Lakers to their first opening-round playoff exit since 2007.

The Lakers were without three starters, including Kobe Bryant, because of injury, and trailed by as many as 25 points. They had 21 turnovers to San Antonio’s eight and Howard was ejected from the game early in the third quarter after picking up two technical fouls.

“It wasn’t a fair fight,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters. “When you’re a competitor, you want to compete on an even basis, and the Lakers weren’t able to do that.”

The Warriors moved a step closer to the second round by sending the Nuggets to their 11th loss in their past 12 road playoff games. Curry broke open a four-point game by scoring 22 points in the final 6:22 of the third quarter.

Jarrett Jack added 21 points and hit 8-of-9 shots for Golden State, which shot 56 percent from the field, and can close out the series with a road win tomorrow.

“As a team, we played aggressive all night, finished the job and now we’ve got to try to do it in Denver,” Curry said. “We’re excited to get the win and we look forward to Tuesday.”

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