NBA: Heat finish off Giannis, Bucks to reach East finals

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Posted at Sep 09 2020 09:30 AM | Updated as of Sep 09 2020 04:51 PM

The last time Erik Spoelstra and the Heat went this far in a season was in 2014 when they reached the NBA Finals but lost to the San Antonio Spurs. Kim Klement, Pool via Getty Images/AFP

Jimmy Butler scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and the Miami Heat overcame a fast start by the Milwaukee Bucks to win 103-94 on Tuesday (US time) and advance to the Eastern Conference finals. 

Goran Dragic added 17 points for Miami, which got its best-of-7 series over with in 5 games. 

The Heat now await the winner of the Boston-Toronto semifinals, which the Celtics lead 3-2.

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The last time Erik Spoelstra and the Heat went this far in a season was in 2014 when they reached the NBA Finals but lost to the San Antonio Spurs.

Buoyed by its Game 4 win without MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle sprain), Milwaukee broke out to a 28-15 lead in the first quarter. 

But the Heat cooled off the Bucks in the second, outscoring them 33-18 and held on to the lead the rest of the way. 

Behind Khris Middleton, Milwaukee remained a threat, with Miami up 93-88 with 90 seconds left in the game. 

A couple of misses by Middleton from long distance, and a jumper by Dragic and 2 free throws by Butler secured the win for the Heat. 

TOP SEED BUCKS EXIT EARLY AGAIN

Middleton led Milwaukee with 23 points, but needed 25 shots. 

Brooke Lopez chipped in 15 points and 14 rebounds.

Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Antetokounmpo -- tipped to scoop a second straight MVP award this season -- aggravated his sprained right ankle in the first half of the Bucks' Gam 4 overtime victory.

The Bucks declared him inactive less than an hour before tipoff on Tuesday.

The loss of Antetokounmpo, who averaged career highs of 29.5 points and 13.6 rebounds per game this season, was a huge blow for the Bucks, as they tried to do what no NBA team has done before: Come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a 7-game playoff series.

It's the second straight campaign that the Bucks built the best regular-season record only to come up short in the playoffs.

In 2019 they fell to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors in six games in the Eastern Conference finals. -- With a report from Agence France-Presse.