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By Andy Roth, Contributing Editor - Archive - Email
The Pulse of the NBA
New York, NY (Sports Network) - Lost leads dominated this weekend's NBA playoff action. Let's take a look at each series:

INDIANA PACERS-MIAMI HEAT

Miami's "Big Two" came through in a big way on Sunday in Indiana and probably saved the Heat's season, as they rallied for a 101-93 win over the Pacers. LeBron James had 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists, while Dwyane Wade had 30 points, including 22 in the second half when he and James completely took over the game.

"Me and 'Bron had it going," said Wade, who bounced back from the worst playoff game of his career on Thursday, when he shot just 2 of 13 from the floor and scored five points. "We played off of each other very well. We both were aggressive at the same time. That's beautiful basketball for the Miami Heat when we play that way."

Wade and James more than had it going. During one stretch that bridged the second and third quarters, they scored 38 straight points for the Heat and combined to score 28 of Miami's 30 points in the third quarter.

"LeBron had that look," Heat forward Shane Battier said. "And when he has that look and Dwyane has that look, you want to run through a wall."

One other player played a key role in the win. Udonis Haslem, who was averaging just 3.1 points per game in the playoffs prior to Sunday, came off the bench to score 14 points on 5 of 6 shooting.

So it took a monster effort from the Heat's two superstars and a rare offensive output from a bench player for Miami to pull this game out. That's exactly why this series is far from over and why I don't think the Heat will win the championship.

With or without Chris Bosh, the Heat are too reliant on their stars to play at a high level with the supporting cast being so weak.

During the regular season, Miami's bench was 27th in the league in scoring, averaging 24.6 ppg and shooting just 41 percent from the floor. And the production has got even worse in the playoffs. The Heat are last in bench scoring, averaging only 17.3 ppg while shooting a horrible 38 percent from the field.

I don't think that kind of production will get the job done for the Heat in their quest to win the title.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS-OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

The Lakers blew a sizeable fourth-quarter lead for the second time in the series in Game 4 on Saturday and, as a result, find themselves in a 3-1 hole rather than have the Thunder on the brink of elimination.
Kobe Bryant and head coach Mike Brown have to take the brunt of the responsibility for the fourth-quarter meltdown.

The Lakers led 91-78 with 8:02 left in the game, but scored just nine points the rest of the way, which included a meaningless jumper by Bryant at the buzzer.

The final eight minutes turned into the Kobe isolation show, with Bryant going one-on-one and the possession ending with a jump shot as the rest of his teammates were simply bystanders. Unfortunately for the Lakers, Bryant missed five of his next six shots, mostly from long range, once they had the 13-point lead.

And a missed jump shot is the Thunder's best friend, because that ignites the fast break, where they destroy opponents with their speed and athleticism.

Andrew Bynum, who connected on 7-of-12 shots and had 14 points in the first half, took only three shots after intermission and scored just four points. He got very few touches in the second half.

The Thunder continually fronted the Lakers' All-Star center in the second half and had weak-side help in the paint, which made entry passes over the top very difficult.

Bynum was mainly posting up on the low blocks and Brown made no adjustments such as cross screens to get Bynum the ball on the move or have him get the ball in the lane. It was also the head coach's job to tell Bryant and the rest of the team to try to play inside-out and not strictly go to Kobe on isolation plays.

Bryant was critical of his other big man, Pau Gasol, saying he has to be more aggressive after he scored just 10 points and grabbed five rebounds.

"Pau's got to be more assertive," Bryant said. "He's the guy out there that we need. When he's getting the ball, he's looking to pass. He's got to be aggressive. He's got to shoot the ball. He's got to drive the ball to the basket and he will in the next game."

Bryant thought Gasol should have looked for his shot more with the way the Thunder were focusing on him and Bynum.

"He's just looking to swing the ball too much, he's just got to shoot it," Bryant said of Gasol. "We played pretty much the same way the entire game. The second half, what they did was front Andrew, so when they front Andrew and in the fourth quarter they crowd me, the other guys have to be more aggressive - simple as that."

Gasol could have been more aggressive, but it doesn't excuse Brown's failure to adjust to the Thunder's second-half defensive strategy on Bynum or Bryant.

As for the Thunder, you have to give them credit for not giving up and pulling off their second come-from-behind win of the series, but I'm still not blown away by a team that mainly lives and dies by the jump shot.

If the Thunder advance to take on the San Antonio Spurs for the Western Conference championship, I think their playoff run will end there because coach Gregg Popovich's team is deeper and more balanced and it plays the kind of style that normally wins championships.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS-SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Speaking of the Spurs, what a tremendous run they're on. And I don't think they ever get their just due or the proper national attention because they don't get it done with highlight-reel type play.

The Spurs completed their second series sweep and extended their winning streak to 18 games dating back to the regular season with wins on Saturday and Sunday in Los Angeles.

The Spurs rallied from a 22-point first-quarter deficit to win Game 3 and closed out the series the following day after trailing most of the fourth quarter.

It was only fitting in the closing minutes of Game 4 that San Antonio's "Big Three" of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili scored nine of the team's last 10 points to rally for the win.

"We haven't done anything yet. We've won two rounds," said Duncan, who averaged 21 points, 9.3 rebounds, two blocks and shot 59 percent for the series. "We haven't done anything, so you can't qualify or classify our team as anything other than that we've gotten this far."

The Spurs are the deepest and most balanced team remaining in the playoffs and I think they'll be standing at the end. Unlike the Heat, they have so many good players beyond their top three players and all of them mesh so well together and they do the things that need to get done to win games.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS-BOSTON CELTICS

A 14-0 start and a 15-point halftime lead wasn't enough for the Celtics to take a stranglehold on their series, as the Sixers rallied for a 92-83 win Friday in Philly to even things up at two games a piece.

Kevin Garnett, who averaged nearly 24 points and shot 63 percent from the floor over the first three games, scored only nine in Game 4 and shot just 3 of 12 from the floor.

"We had a team down and we didn't finish them off," he said. "It's pretty disappointing. So, we have to go back home. They did what they needed to do to protect their home court, now we have to go do the same thing."

After the red-hot start, in which the Celtics hit seven of their first eight shots, it was all downhill for the offense from there. Boston went 23 of 63 from the floor the rest of the way (36.5 percent) and scored just 37 points in the second half to open the door for the Philadelphia rally.

"I thought we lost the composure, and once we did, we never really returned to playing basketball the way we played in the first half," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "They pressure. They took us out of a lot of stuff."

The Sixers, who were inept offensively in the first half while putting up just 31 points, were nearly flawless after intermission. They exploded for 61 points, with three players doing most of the damage.

Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner scored 16 points each, while Lou Williams dropped in 13 of his 15 points in the second half. Lavoy Allen also some major work off the boards with 10 rebounds.

The Celtics' bench, meanwhile, will have to be a lot better for Game 5 Monday in Boston than it was in Game 4. The Celts' reserves scored just 12 points on Friday after averaging just over 24 points in the first three games of the series.

Copyright 2012

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