(Los Angeles) Huge surprise on Wednesday in the NBA playoffs: the Heat of the untenable Jimmy Butler eliminated the Bucks, to reach the Eastern Conference semifinals and face New York Golden State breaking in Sacramento and Memphis getting a reprieve from the Lakers.
Winner after extra time (128-126), at the end of a still suffocating meeting, Miami became the sixth team in history, seeded N.8 to bring down the N.1. Who would have believed it ten days ago when the Floridians were laboriously scrambling to get out of the roadblocks?
“Our season has been up and down, we’ve been in tough situations but we fought hard, we knew we had what it took to come back in better shape,” said Gabe Vincent (22 points ).
Finalist in 2020, the Heat know how to awaken their fighting virtues when the spring games come, especially with a leader like Butler to work miracles. Two days after his exceptional performance with 56 points, the winger planted 42 this time and it was he who managed the basket to snatch the extension, by acrobatically taking over a pass from Vincent, almost to the sound of the end bell. .
Under his leadership, Miami erased 16 lengths behind in the fourth quarter, overwhelming the Bucks unable to finish a job that had started well, under the leadership of Giannis Anteokounmpo (38 points, 20 rebounds) who gave everything. Too even, because his foul on Max Strus, who attempted a banderilla behind the arc, offered lethal free throws in the “overtime”.
However in this exercise, the Greek again failed in the large widths (10/23). Too bad for Milwaukee who had been able to count on the awakening of Khris Middleton (33 points) and therefore falls from very high, after having dominated the regular season.
Symbol of the fear that gripped the 2021 champion, no shot was taken in time on the last action that could lead to a second extension.
The Heat will therefore face the Knicks who got rid of the Cavaliers (106-95). A confrontation inspired by the great battles of the 1990s.
It had been ten years since New York had passed the first round. And his collective also shone with his fighting spirit, like Mitchell Robinson, capturing no less than 11 offensive rebounds (18 in total, 13 points, 3 blocks).
The Knicks led the way all game, led by Jalen Brunson (23 points) and RJ Barrett (21 points). The only downside was the premature exit of Julius Randle (13 points), just before the break. The winger re-injured his left ankle which he sprained before the playoffs.
Golden State, pushed to its limits against the Kings, spoke about its experience as a champion to win a precious success in Sacramento (123-116). A break (3-2) to be confirmed on Friday to end it.
Stephen Curry (31 points, 8 assists) was still dominant, his basket with the fault 22 seconds from the end extinguishing hopes of an opposing comeback. He wasn’t the only one to shine as Klay Thompson added 25 points and Draymond Green 21, his best total in over five years.
Opposite, DeAaron Fox, very present despite his fracture at the end of the left index finger, did not deserve, although clumsy (24 points at 9/25).
Finally, Memphis, forced to win against the Lakers on pain of elimination, succeeded at home (116-99), in the wake of Desmond Bane (33 points, 10 rebounds).
Ja Morant was no slouch (31 points, 10 rebounds), standing out on receiving an alley-oop (pass in the air) above LeBron James. The latter, savior of L.A. 48 hours earlier, was less prominent (15 points at 5/17 in throws, 10 rebounds).
Anthony Davis (31 points, 19 rebounds), on the other hand, was dominant after missing out on his previous game. In vain, because the Grizzlies counted up to 25 units in advance.
Still, coach Darvin Ham didn’t seem to be in doubt: “We were told we wouldn’t be in the playoffs from the start. So there’s no pressure.”
L. A. remains in effect in favorable waivers (3-2). If he wins on Saturday, the 2020 champion will advance to the conference semifinals.