Not easy. But over.
For the first time since 2006, the Miami Heat have won a playoff series — and, finally, can start thinking in earnest about another showdown with the Boston Celtics.
Dwyane Wade scored 26 points, Chris Bosh added 22 points and 11 rebounds, and the Heat advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals by topping visiting Philadelphia 97-91 on Wednesday night and ousting the 76ers in five games.
Mario Chalmers scored 20 points off the bench and LeBron James finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for Miami. Joel Anthony made a pair of free throws with 16.8 seconds left for the Heat, who will face Boston starting Sunday afternoon in Miami.
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It's the first series win for the Heat since the 2006 NBA finals.
Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand each scored 22 points for Philadelphia.
And like four of the other five games in this series, it wasn't easy for the Heat, who saw a double-digit lead cut to one in the final minute before hanging on to advance.
Philadelphia had a chance to tie with 1:10 left, but Evan Turner's baseline jumper bounced off the rim and James grabbed his 10th rebound.
Wade made a three-pointer with 8:34 left, pumped his fist on his way up the sideline, and Miami was up 81-71. He crossed Iguodala over twice for baskets later in the period, each of those giving the Heat eight-point leads.
Philadelphia simply would not go away. The Sixers got within two on three occasions and — helped by a technical foul assessed against Wade with 51 seconds left, cut Miami's lead to one point at 90-89 and again at 92-91.
Anthony swished a pair of free throws with 16.8 seconds left, restoring the three-point edge. Iguodala missed on Philadelphia's next possession, and Miami finally escaped.
In a game played late Tuesday:
Lakers 106, Hornets 90: A sprained ankle is a minor impediment to Kobe Bryant at this point in his playoff career. Emeka Okafor is a much larger obstacle.
Bryant overcame them both on a dunk that gave Los Angeles momentum toward the second round of the playoffs.
Bryant scored 19 points on a sprained left ankle, throwing down two impressive jams that led the Lakers past the New Orleans for a 3-2 lead in the series.
Game 6 is Thursday in New Orleans.
Bryant's second-quarter dunk on Okafor could turn out to be the Lakers' signature moment of a taxing first-round series that began with a stunning Game 1 loss. That's exactly what Bryant was trying to achieve when he picked up his dribble with two hands and threw down a right-handed slam right in Okafor's face.
"I just had a lane to the basket," Bryant said. "It looked like he was going to challenge me at the rim, and I decided to accept the challenge. ... It's a message for us that this was important. It's time to raise up and do what we've got to do."
Bryant left New Orleans on crutches two days earlier after getting hurt late in Game 4, but he refused an MRI exam or extensive treatment when he got home. Post-season injuries are nothing new for the two-time NBA finals MVP, who has persevered through a slew of them during 67 playoff games in the past three years.
"That's what he does," said Monty Williams, the Hornets' frustrated coach. "All this talk about his ankle. Did it look like his ankle was hurting? OK then."
Warriors' coach not Smart anymore
Keith Smart is out as the Golden State Warriors coach after one season.
The Warriors announced Wednesday that Smart's option for next season will not be picked up. A coaching search is set to begin immediately.
Smart spent seven years as an assistant with Golden State before he replaced the ousted Don Nelson just before training camp. The Warriors went 36-46 under Smart, a 10-game improvement from the previous season but clearly not enough to appease a new ownership group that has promised sweeping changes to the perennial underachieving franchise.
Smart had a one-year deal with a team option for next season, and nothing short of a rare playoff appearance was likely to save his job.
Knicks keep Billups
The New York Knicks are bringing Chauncey Billups back for next season.
The Knicks announced Wednesday that they are keeping the veteran point guard, deciding his leadership outweighs the savings they would have earned by waiving him this week.
The Knicks would have been obligated to pay Billups only $3.7 million if they cut him within five days after the season. Instead, he will be on the books for $14.2 million next season.
Billups will be 35 in September.