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Miami holds court at home, clinches series

By wire services
Published May 5, 2004

MIAMI - Long removed from its 0-7 start, the Heat seems unbeatable at home - which is why the team is headed for the second round of the playoffs.

With the Heat running from the start and New Orleans guard Baron Davis hobbled by halftime, Miami extended its home win streak to 16 games, beating the Hornets 85-77 Tuesday night to clinch the first-round series 4-3.

The home team won every game, and the Heat became the final team to reach Round 2, and the most improbable. Miami was 25-57 last season, 0-7 early in November and 25-36 in March before staging a late-season surge.

Miami advanced to the East semifinals against the top-seeded Pacers, who have been idle since completing a sweep of Boston on April 25. Game 1 is Thursday in Indianapolis.

"If I was Indiana, I'd be kind of nervous playing against this team," the Hornets' Davis said. "They're young and talented, and they play like they've got nothing to lose."

Smothering defense and a potent fast break gave the largest crowd (20,286) in Heat history plenty to cheer about. Caron Butler led the Heat with 23 points, and Rafer Alston made four free throws in the final 2:09 after the Hornets cut a 16-point deficit to five.

The injury-plagued Davis bruised his tailbone when he drew an offensive foul and took a tumble late in the second quarter. He limped to the locker room before halftime, played just three minutes in the second half and watched the fourth quarter from the bench as New Orleans turned to veteran Steve Smith for the bulk of its offense. Davis had been hampered earlier in the series by knee, ankle and elbow injuries.

"I can't move too much," he shouted to coach Tim Floyd before leaving the game for good with the Hornets trailing 52-39.

None of New Orleans' starters reached double figures until the final three minutes. Smith had a season-high 25 points.

KINGS 104, WOLVES 98: Mike Bibby scored 33 for visiting Sacramento, which took a 1-0 lead in the West semifinal. Sam Cassell scored 40 for the Timberwolves, who have never been this far in the playoffs. But Kevin Garnett, who held up his MVP trophy in a pregame ceremony after remarks by commissioner David Stern, had a quiet 16 points and 18 rebounds, plus six turnovers.

Garnett went 1-for-8 in the second half, Latrell Sprewell missed all six of his shots after halftime and Minnesota totaled 18 turnovers. The fourth quarter featured six ties, the last at 83-all with 5:23 to go. After blocking Ervin Johnson's layup, Chris Webber made a jumper on the other end to put the Kings ahead 93-86 with 2:18 left.

DRAFT: Brooklyn standout Sebastian Telfair, cousin to Knicks guard Stephon Marbury, declared for the June 24 draft. The 18-year-old point guard, a projected first-round pick, had committed to Louisville, but signed with an agent and picked up a six-year endorsement deal with Adidas. Telfair said it was worth more than $15-million.

The 6-footer, who played at Lincoln High, finished his high school career with a New York state record 2,755 points. Also, Charlotte center Martin Iti will enter the draft but doesn't plan to sign with an agent. Iti, a 7-foot player from Sydney, Australia, blocked 35 shots and made Conference USA's all-freshman team.

NETS: The real estate developer who purchased the Nets and plans to move the team to Brooklyn will try to reach agreements with those who would be displaced by a new arena instead of trying to remove them through eminent domain.

At a city council committee hearing, the Bloomberg administration and developer Bruce Ratner said they didn't know how many people would be displaced. Forest City Ratner previously had said 250 to 400, while opponents maintain at least 870 residents would have to leave, in addition to 500 people who work in the neighborhood near downtown Brooklyn. The sale of the Nets was announced in January; the league has not given its approval.

[Last modified May 5, 2004, 01:00:41]

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