NEW YORK: LeBron James scored 49 points to carry the Miami Heat to a 102-96 victory over Brooklyn on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) and within one win of advancing in the NBA playoffs.
James, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, matched his career playoff high as two-time defending champions Miami took a commanding three-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference second-round series.
The Heat will try to wrap up the series when they host game five on Wednesday.
James’s mammoth effort kept the Heat on pace with the tenacious Nets throughout, but it was team-mate Chris Bosh who hit a crucial three-pointer from the right corner with 57.3 seconds left to play that gave Miami the lead for good.
“[James’s] biggest play of the game after scoring that many points was getting off the ball,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the play that ended with Bosh’s key trey.
Double-teamed by Nets veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, James fired the ball to team-mate Mario Chalmers, who passed it to Bosh.
“He just showed great poise and trust to be able to make a great play, a basketball play,” Spoelstra said of James, noting the superstar has been criticized plenty of times when he failed to shoulder the burden of late-game shots.
“He was fantastic tonight,” Spoelstra said.
Bosh’s shot broke a 94-94 tie in a tense fourth quarter, and the Heat stretched their advantage with four free-throws from Ray Allen.
James completed the scoring with one more free throw—missing the second with 1.1 seconds left to fall short of scoring 50 points in a playoff game for the first time.
He admitted he was momentarily disappointed.
“At the same time that I’m in the moment, I understand history,” James said. “To put up 50 in a playoff game would have been pretty cool.”
In Portland, Damian Lillard scored 25 points as the Portland Trail Blazers stayed alive in the NBA playoffs with a 103-92 victory over San Antonio.
LaMarcus Aldridge added 19 points for the Trail Blazers, whose victory in game four of the Western Conference second-round playoff series prevented a Spurs sweep.
They’ll head back to San Antonio for game five on Wednesday, with the Spurs still up 3-1 and looking to wrap up the series and reach the conference finals for a third straight season.