Lillard scores 25, Blazers stay alive
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Nicolas Batum had a simple question for his Portland teammates: "Why not us?"
No other team has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. But the Trail Blazers took the first step Monday night by beating the San Antonio Spurs 103-92 to stave off elimination and narrow the Western Conference semifinal series to 3-1.
"Why not us? No, it’s never been done before," Batum said. "We know it’s going to be tough. It won’t be easy, especially against this team.’
The French forward had 14 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists and pestered fellow countryman Tony Parker all night. Damian Lillard had 25 points to lead the Blazers, who won their first second-round playoff game since a victory over Utah in the 2000 conference semifinals.
"We had nothing to lose tonight. We had no pressure. It was do or die," Batum said. "So we just go out there and play."
Portland held Parker to 14 points after he had scored 29 points or more in three of his last four playoff games. Coach Gregg Popovich sat Parker and Tim Duncan after Portland built a 20-point lead in the final quarter.
The Spurs are looking to advance to the conference finals for the third straight season. Game 5 is Wednesday night in San Antonio.
"The energy was weird tonight," Parker said. "You have to give a lot of credit to Portland. They played great. They came out of the gates and I thought Batum was great tonight. He gave them a big boost."
The Blazers were the last team to take a series to seven games after dropping the first three. Portland rebounded in the first round against Dallas in 2003, but ultimately lost the deciding game in the first-round series.
The Blazers have been hurt by the loss of backup point guard Mo Williams to a groin injury for the past two games. Williams provided both energy and points off the bench all season in relief of Lillard.
Portland got just six points off the bench in Game 3, but Will Barton provided a spark with 17 points on Monday night.
Barton became the first Blazer with 17 points and six rebounds off the bench in a playoff game since Brian Grant in 2000 against Utah.
"Any time you get a boost off the bench it’s always good for a momentum swing," San Antonio’s Danny Green said. "When he comes in and gets the crowd into it, they pretty much get it going, and it helped them a lot. "
Coach Terry Stotts promised that the Blazers would play with pride in Game 4 and they did from the start.
Lillard’s pull up jumper gave Portland a 14-8 lead. He extended it to 20-14 with a layup. But the Spurs answered with a 9-2 run and took a 24-23 lead on Patty Mills’ 3-pointer.
Portland, which had only led twice in the previous three games, quickly reclaimed the lead and held on until Tiago Splitter tied it at 46 with a free throw. The Blazers had a 50-48 lead at the half.
"I though with the way Nico (Batum) played, the game came a lot easier," Lillard said. "He was attacking, making plays. He was pushing the ball."
Lillard opened the second half with a 3-pointer. Batum hit a 3 and added a free throw to push the lead to 69-61.
Batum added another 3 before Thomas Robinson’s dunk and Lillard’s 3 made it 77-63 to cap a 12-2 Portland run.
Lillard’s layup put Portland ahead 90-72 in the fourth quarter. He added another to make it 94-74.
"If they lost today it was a sweep, but they’ve got pride and they played good," Manu Ginobili said. "They played the game more desperately than we did. We didn’t bring the same emotions the first three games. The bottom line is they played better than us in every aspect of the game.
Parker scored 29 points in San Antonio’s 118-103 Game 3 victory on Saturday night. The Spurs had routed the Blazers 116-92 in the series opener after their grueling seven-game series against the Mavericks, then built a 20-point lead and won Game 2, 114-97.
NOTES: Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll watched the game sitting next to Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder who owns both the Super Bowl-winning Seahawks and the Blazers. ... It was Batum’s first double-double in the playoffs. ... It was Portland’s first playoff victory against the Spurs since May 1, 1993, in the first round.
Heat 102, Nets 96
NEW YORK -- LeBron James had done his part to put the Miami Heat in control of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and one last free throw was meaningless except to him.
He missed, leaving him one shy of his first 50-point playoff game, muttering to himself after.
"That’s the first time I’ve been disappointed in myself in a win," James said.
Then he smiled, realizing his performance left nothing to complain about.
James tied his playoff career high with 49 points, Chris Bosh made the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 57 seconds left, and the Heat beat the Brooklyn Nets 102-96 on Monday night for a 3-1 lead.
James carried the Heat nearly the entire way until Bosh hit the shot that put Miami ahead for good -- a play where James resisted the temptation to force a shot, instead passing to Mario Chalmers, who swung it to a wide-open Bosh.
Ray Allen followed with four free throws and James finished it off with one more, putting the Heat in position to wrap it up at home Wednesday in Game 5.
James was 16 of 24 from the field and 14 of 19 from the free throw line in matching the 49 points he scored for Cleveland against Orlando in the 2009 Eastern Conference finals. He missed his second free throw with 1.1 seconds left.
"He was what was needed on the road and that’s what makes him the best player in the game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Spoelstra talked to James about coming out in the fourth quarter, but had about as much success as the Nets’ defenders.
"He asked me and I didn’t know if he was serious or not, and what I told him I cannot say again," James said. "So I wanted to finish out the game. I felt like it was a must-win for us."
Joe Johnson scored 18 points for the Nets, who were 15 of 25 from 3-point range in their Game 3 victory but only 5 of 22 in this one. Paul Pierce added 16 points.
"This is very difficult to swallow," Nets center Kevin Garnett said. "Hard to take, but it’s what it is. Coulda, shoulda, woulda doesn’t help us at this point."
Dwyane Wade scored 15 points on the night his Heat postseason record of 46 points was shattered. Bosh finished with 12.
Miami pulled out a thrilling victory in a game neither team led by double digits and has won at least one road game in 14 straight series, breaking the record set by the Chicago Bulls from 1991-94.
Garnett’s two free throws tied it with 2:30 remaining. Bosh then missed a pair of 3-pointers before getting a third crack at it in the corner in front of the Brooklyn bench for a 97-94 lead. Johnson then missed a jumper while trying to draw James’ sixth foul -- Johnson said afterward James "flopped" -- and Allen’s free throws put it away.
"Obviously the series is not over but we really have to have some urgency going to Miami and we’ve got to come out of there with one," Johnson said.
Wade scored 46 points against Boston in the 2010 playoffs, and James’ best in a Heat uniform had also come against the Celtics, his memorable 45-point performance that saved Miami’s season in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.
Pierce, who asked to guard James after Game 1, was on the wrong end of this LeBron masterpiece.
James and the Heat had shrugged off a couple days of chatter from Pierce, who said the Nets weren’t afraid of them. But things were testy at the start, with first-quarter technical fouls for James, Pierce, Shane Battier and Alan Anderson. Miami started quickly again and led 27-22 after one behind 12 points from James.
He opened the second on the bench and Brooklyn started with a 9-2 spurt to take its first lead at 31-29. James was a force once he returned -- especially after a second foul against him seemed to get James more annoyed than any of Pierce’s talking did.
James gave Pierce a glare after a thunderous slam later in the period, when he had 13 points in just 7 1/2 minutes, and the Heat led 56-49.
James had 13 straight Miami points in the third, but Brooklyn cut it to one on a few occasions before he made a pair of free throws to give Miami a 79-76 lead.
Notes: Mirza Teletovic was held to four points and missed all three 3-point attempts. He had been 11 of 19 in the series, Wade saying before the game it was "red alert" when he entered. ... As they have during postseason home games, the Nets had a Brooklyn-based entertainer announce their starting lineups. On Monday it was Mike D of the Beastie Boys. Denzel Washington, Spike Lee and Floyd Mayweather Jr. were also in the crowd.