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Report Card 5.20.12: Heat pull even; Spurs advance

By Ben Golliver | Blogger
Heat forward LeBron James made basketball look easy in Game 4 versus the Pacers. (Getty Images)

Each night, Eye on Basketball brings you what you need to know about the games of the NBA. From great performances to terrible clock management the report card evaluates and eviscerates the good, the bad, and the ugly from the night that was.

Miami HeatNew rule: You automatically get an "A" when your star player delivers a 40/18/9 in a season-deciding win. Pretty straightforward. LeBron James' ridiculous stat line was unprecedented in modern playoff history and Dwyane Wade was back as a super productive running mate, tacking on 30 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists to help Miami even their series with the Pacers in Indy. Udonis Haslem unexpectedly provided the finishing touches, knocking down multiple jumpers late to finish with 14 points, the only Heat player not named James or Wade to finish in double figures. Those 14 points were the most Haslem has posted since he scored 16 against the Dallas Mavericks back on March 29. Given that James was gassed down the stretch and Wade is reportedly dealing with a balky knee that was drained last week, his timing couldn't have been better.
San Antonio SpursThe Spurs became the NBA's first 2012 conference finalists by sweeping the Clippers out of the playoffs on Sunday. The win marked eight straight playoff victories and 18 straight overall victories. They've made full use of the No. 1 seed's favorable draw in the first two rounds but those are out-of-this-solar-system numbers. They've won their eight playoff games by an average margin of 13.3 points and they survived a gutsy effort from the Clippers, thanks only to some luck with loose balls and some timely forced turnovers late. Tim Duncan broke out the full array of precision post moves on his way to 21 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks.
Los Angeles ClippersThis is a sympathy "B" as the Clippers never stood a chance against the Spurs, who dissected their weaknesses -- lack of go-to low post scoring, average overall defense, poor foul shooting -- time and again throughout this quick series. Chris Paul (23 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals) and Blake Griffin (21 points and 5 rebounds) both gutted out solid games on Sunday after dealing with injuries for much of the postseason and explosive guard Eric Bledsoe showed plenty of flashes on Sunday, finishing with 17 points on 10 shots off the bench. The Clippers head into the summer having made great progress as a franchise and with a bright future thanks to the pair. Roster work is needed around the fringes but -- unlike most sweeps -- this wasn't a quick exit to be ashamed of.
Indiana PacersThe Pacers simply got beaten by a two-man team, something that they seemed sure wouldn't happen. Their confidence was still intact as late as halftime on Sunday, when forward Danny Granger said that his team was OK with LeBron James getting his points as long as they shut down the other options. James got his, Wade got his, Haslem got his, and now the Pacers, who have talked trash and picked fights throughout the series, face a best-of-3 to decide who advances. One bright spot: Darren Collison (16 points in 20 minutes off the bench) who made the case for more playing time with his quickness off the dribble and ability to get to the hoop. Indiana needs to get its big dogs going though: Granger and David West combined for just 28 points on a night when James and Wade finished with 70 put together. That margin, obviously, needs to be narrowed. Sunday felt like the first major momentum shift back in Miami's direction after Heat forward Chris Bosh was lost indefinitely to an ab injury in Game 1.
 
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