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Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers drives around Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2014 NBA playoffs at the AT&T Center on May 14, in San Antonio, Texas. (AFP)
Heat & Spurs claim 4-1 series wins to advance Brooklyn, Portland slump out

SAN ANTONIO, May 15, (Agencies): Kawhi Leonard had 22 points and seven rebounds as the San Antonio Spurs advanced to the Western Conference final with a dominating 104-82 win over Portland on Wednesday. Danny Green scored 22 points and Tim Duncan added 16 points with eight rebounds to help the Spurs win the series over the Trail Blazers four games to one and reach their third straight conference final. Duncan said the Spurs are starting to come together at the right time. “We got to the point now where we understand how we need to play for a longer period of time,” Duncan said. The win in front of a crowd of 18,581 may have come at a cost as San Antonio’s all-star guard Tony Parker left midway through the first quarter with tightness in his left hamstring and did not return. Duncan said after the game that he doesn’t think it is a serious injury. “It was more a precaution than anything,” Duncan said. “They just don’t want to get him any more hurt. They will check it out tomorrow.”

The Spurs won by an average of 21 points in their three home wins in the series and await the winner of the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Oklahoma City leads that matchup 3-2 with game six scheduled for Thursday in Los Angeles. LaMarcus Aldridge paced Portland’s attack with 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds and Damian Lillard tallied a 17-point, 10-assist double-double in the loss. San Antonio had a chance to sweep on Monday, but Portland pulled out a 103-92 victory. “We ran out of energy in our last game,” said Duncan. “We had better focus this game and we used our home court to our advantage.” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said he told his charges not to hang their heads just because they ended the 2013-14 season with a loss. “We had a special year,” Stotts said. “Every one of our starters had career years. “One thing about losing in the playoffs you end on a loss, but we got a taste of the playoffs. We got a taste of success and something we can build on for next season.”

Heat 96, Nets 94
In Miami, the Miami Heat fought back from eight points down in the final three minutes to beat the Brooklyn Nets 96-94 and secure a place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals for the fourth straight year. Reigning champions Miami claimed the series 4-1 but for a long time it looked as if they were going to suffer their first home loss of the postseason as Joe Johnson inspired the Nets with a game-high 34 points. It was tough on a determined Nets after they trailed for less than six minutes in the entire game but coach Jason Kidd was able to find perspective at the end of the franchise’s second season since their move to Brooklyn and their first since major roster rebuilding. “It felt like we had a great opportunity against the world champions but we came up short. It is a process,” said Kidd, in his first year as a head coach.

“Now it is time to keep building and keep the process going and getting better. To get to the second round of the playoffs gives us something to build on,” he said. Miami will face either the Indiana Pacers or the Washington Wizards in the Eastern final. Indiana lead the series 3-2 going into Thursday’s game six on their home court. LeBron James top-scored for Miami with 29 points while Dwyane Wade, who scored 20 points in the first half, ended with 28. A trademark three-pointer from the corner from Ray Allen put Miami 93-91 ahead with 32 seconds left, the first time they had led in the fourth, and though the Nets had the final possession, James made a game-winning steal on Johnson to seal the win.

Allen’s shot, which recalled his game-tying effort in game six of last year’s final against San Antonio, left his coach Erik Spoelstra purring. “That’s ‘every day Ray’, he just finds a way at the end. That is thousands and thousands of hours of practice and simulating pressure, that was a big-time three,” said the Heat coach. James had dominated game four with 49 points and not surprisingly, Brooklyn adjusted to make sure that he was kept out of range. Dwyane Wade, whose 28 points were his best of the postseason, duly took over, delivering a blistering first-half. “After coming off that last game with 49 points I knew that they were going to be aware of him and so I took it upon myself to be very aggressive early on and open the game up,” said Wade. Miami have now won 10 consecutive playoff series.


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