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The Miami Heat are headed back to the Eastern Conference finals.
The Heat closed out their semifinal series against top-seeded Milwaukee on Tuesday night, beating the Bucks 103-94, to take the series 4-1.
They’ll move on to the conference championship series for the first time since 2014.
“It’s not easy to get back to the conference finals, and our organization knows that. We’ve been trying desperately to get back to the conference finals,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said, via WPLG’s Clay Ferraro. “That’s not our ultimate goal, we get it. But you can still acknowledge the journey, how hard it is just to get to this point. That is why we brought Jimmy Butler here.”
Heat rally back after slow start
Miami got off to a slow start on Tuesday, and fell into a 13-point hole early in the first half while getting outscored 28-19 in the opening quarter.
They squared the game up almost instantly in the second quarter, however, opening the period on a 13-2 run, and pushed their lead to double digits by the midway point of the fourth quarter.
Though the Bucks cut it to just four points in the final minutes, it was too late. Miami held Milwaukee to just nine points in the final 3:13 of the game — four of which came in the final 20 seconds — to grab the nine-point win.
Jimmy Butler led Miami with 17 points and 10 rebounds in the win while shooting just 4-of-6 from the field. Goran Dragic added 17 points of his own, and Tyler Herro dropped 14 points with three buckets from behind the arc off the bench. The Heat have now gone a near-perfect 8-1 in the postseason at Walt Disney World, having swept the Indiana Pacers in their opening-round series.
Khris Middleton led Milwaukee with 23 points and seven rebounds. Donte DiVincenzo added 17 points, and Brook Lopez added 15 points and 14 rebounds.
The Bucks, who held the best record in basketball coming into the season restart in Florida after the COVID-19 hiatus, are now headed home after going just 8-10 inside the bubble. They won just twice after the league held a walkout in response to the Jacob Blake shooting in Wisconsin. Milwaukee was the first team to decide not to play.
“I think what the team stands for, I think the character and the humanity to stand and be on the right side of history like we did … that was emotional,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It’s such a great group. I think winning is important. We had high expectations starting the season, throughout the season, coming here. You always want to realize those expectations … It’d be great if you had both.
“I think if you’re going to choose one, I’d like to be with guys who have high character and stand for something.”
Bucks miss Giannis Antetokounmpo
Milwaukee star and reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was ruled out of the contest shortly before tip with a right ankle sprain.
Antetokounmpo first rolled his ankle in Game 3, and then reinjured it in the second quarter of Game 4 on Sunday while attempting to drive to the hoop.
Antetokounmo was averaging career highs this season, an impressive way to back up his MVP campaign last year, and he averaged 26.7 points and 13.8 rebounds in the postseason at Walt Disney World.
He has one year left on his deal with Milwaukee.
“At the end of the day you’ve got to learn from everything that goes on in your life and in your career, and hopefully we can learn from this and get better as a team and come back,” Antetokounmpo said. “Hopefully we can build a culture in Milwaukee for many years that we can come out here and compete every single year for a championship.”
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