Miami Heat blaze on after sending injury-hit Milwaukee Bucks home
The Miami Heat are through to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2014 after they ended the Milwaukee Bucks’ season with a 103-94 victory in Florida.
The Bucks struggled without the injured reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo but Khris Middleton continued to step up, top-scoring with 23 points and seven rebounds.
The Heat fired from all over the court to take the series 4-1, with Jimmy Butler one of six Miami players to score double figures as he collected 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Miami progress to the conference finals for the first time since they were led by LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, however Butler said afterwards they were aiming further.
“It means a lot. But that’s not my goal. That’s not my guys’ goal. That’s not the organisation’s goal. We want to win ‘it’,” he said.
The Heat will next meet the winner of the ongoing series between reigning champions the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics.
The Los Angeles Lakers pulled ahead of Houston Rockets 2-1 with a 112-102 win courtesy of an imperious display from James.
The victory meant the 35-year-old, who exploded for 29 points in the first half before settling for 36, passed fellow Laker Derek Fisher as the NBA’s leader in play-off wins.
He paid tribute to his “great” team-mates and coaches in acknowledging the achievement, telling ESPN: “It doesn’t happen without the supporting cast”.
One of those supporters on Tuesday was Rajon Rondo, who led a stifling defensive effort in the second half.
The point guard, playing in just his third game back from a broken thumb, also managed to score 12 of his 21 points in the final quarter.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Thunder said in a statement they had mutually agreed to part ways with head coach Billy Donovan, one week after their game seven loss to Houston.