Heat oust top-seeded Bucks

LOS ANGELES LAKERS FORWARD LEBRON JAMES (23) dribbles the ball against Houston Rockets forward Ben McLemore (16) during the first half of game three in the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena. — REUTERS

JIMMY Butler totaled 17 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, and the fifth-seeded Miami Heat used stingy defense to knock the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks out of the playoffs with a 103-94 Game 5 victory Tuesday night to win its Eastern Conference semifinal series 4-1 at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 2019-20 NBA Defensive Player of the Year and favorite to repeat as league MVP, did not play Tuesday after aggravating his sprained right ankle in the first half of Sunday’s Game 4.

Miami awaits the winner of the other Eastern Conference semifinal series between second-seeded Toronto and third-seeded Boston. The Celtics lead 3-2 ahead of Wednesday’s Game 6.

For the Bucks, it’s a stunningly premature playoff exit after posting the NBA’s best regular-season record. The Heat, meanwhile, became the 140th team in 140 tries to win an NBA playoff series after building a 3-0 lead.

Miami held the Bucks to 36.3% shooting, including a third-quarter drought that lasted more than six minutes. That’s the stretch when the Heat created distance for good, with a 3-pointer by Jae Crowder giving Miami a game-high 12-point lead (68-56) at the 3:07 mark of the period.

In the fourth quarter, the Bucks trimmed the Heat’s advantage to 91-87 when Brook Lopez threw down an alley-oop dunk with 2:05 to play. But Butler answered with two free throws and Goran Dragic hit a high-arching jumper on the ensuing possession to maintain Miami’s edge.

Another two free throws by Butler with 46.7 seconds to play extended the Heat’s lead to 97-88 and all but sealed the win.

Rookie Tyler Herro finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists off the bench for the Heat. Dragic added 17 points and four rebounds, while Crowder scored 16 points, grabbed six rebounds and made four 3-pointers.

Khris Middleton finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists, but shot just 8-for-25 and eventually fouled out. Donte DiVincenzo scored 17 points and hit three 3-pointers. Lopez recorded 15 points and 14 rebounds.

Miami overcame a sloppy start. The Heat committed six first-quarter turnovers and shot 7 of 18 in the period, helping the Bucks build a 13-point advantage en route to a nine-point lead at the end of the period.

But the game shifted in the second quarter. The Heat outscored the Bucks 33-18 in the period and buried six 3-pointers.

Miami used a 13-2 spurt to tie the score at 32 on a Kelly Olynyk transition layup at the 8:36 mark. A 3-pointer by Herro later broke a 37-37 tie and sparked an 8-0 Heat spurt to stretch the lead to 45-37 with less than five minutes to play in the half.

LeBron James scored a team-high 36 points and became the all-time leader in NBA postseason wins as the Los Angeles Lakers claimed a 112-102 victory over the Houston Rockets in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals on Tuesday near Orlando.

The Lakers will take a 2-1 lead into Game 4 of the best-of-seven series on Thursday.

Los Angeles’ Anthony Davis added 26 points and a game-high 15 rebounds, and Rajon Rondo keyed a fourth-quarter run after the teams entered the final period tied.

James earned his 162nd career playoff victory, topping the mark set by Derek Fisher.

“It says that I’ve played with a lot of great teams,” James said postgame on TNT. “It says that I’ve played with a lot of great teammates and some great coaches, in Cleveland, in Miami and now here in Los Angeles.”

“It doesn’t happen without the supporting cast. It’s why I’m able to sit here with this achievement, but it’s all about the three organizations I’ve been with; the Cavs, the Heat and now the Lakers, because without them, I wouldn’t be in this position.”

Rondo finished with 21 points and nine assists in 30 minutes off the bench. The Lakers survived 15 ties and 16 lead changes by controlling the final period for a second consecutive game, posting a 30-20 edge in the last 12 minutes.

The Lakers ultimately finished with a 56-46 advantage on paint points and outrebounded the Rockets 43-30 while shooting a robust 55.1% from the floor. Houston sank 46.9% of its field-goal attempts. — Reuters

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