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 little to complain about.
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James tied his playoff career high with 49 points, Chris Bosh made a tiebreaking three-pointer with 57 seconds left and the Heat beat the Brooklyn Nets 102-96 on Monday for a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
James carried the Heat nearly the entire way until Bosh made 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 the ball to a wide-open Bosh in the corner.
Ray Allen followed with four free throws and James finished it off with one more, putting the Heat in position to wrap things 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 three-point range in their Game 3 victory but a mere 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 surpassed. Bosh finished with 12 points.
Miami pulled out a thrilling victory in a game neither team led by double digits. The two-time defending champion Heat has won at least one road game in 14 straight series, surpassing the record set by the Chicago Bulls from 1991 to 1994.
Trail Blazers avoid getting swept
PORTLAND – Damian Lillard scored 25 points and the Portland Trail Blazers staved off elimination in the Western Conference semifinals with a 103-92 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
Nicolas Batum had 14 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists to cut San Antonio’s advantage in the best-of-seven series to 3-1.
LaMarcus Aldridge added 19 points for the Blazers.
Portland held Tony Parker to 14 points after he had scored 29 points or more in three of his last four playoff games. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sat Parker and Tim Duncan, who finished with 12 points, after Portland built a 20-point lead in the final quarter.
The Spurs are looking to head to the conference finals for the third straight season. Game 5 is Wednesday night in San Antonio.
No team has lost a seven-game NBA playoff series after going up 3-0.
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 before losing the deciding game.
The Blazers had been hurt by the loss of backup point guard Mo Williams, who is out with a groin injury, for the past two games. Williams had provided both energy and points off the bench all season in relief of Lillard.
Portland got a mere six points off the bench in Game 3, but Will Barton provided a spark with 17 points in Game 4.