With 7:14 left in the third quarter, the arena went to break for a TV timeout and the fans in the building looked up at the JumboTron to watch a video.
This is where the Bucks went horribly wrong.
In the video — a “fan on the street” type production — several Milwaukeeans described the Heat’s best player — the best basketball player on Earth, actually — as “Queen James.” Yep, big mistake.
The Bucks led 61-55 when its in-arena video wizards decided to question James’ manhood. From there, the Heat outscored Milwaukee 49-30 and went on to win Game 3 of this best-of-7, first-round series 104-91 at Bradley Center. Up 3-0, the Heat can sweep the series Sunday.
“If we come in with the same mind-set or even more desperation than we did today then we give ourselves a good chance to win,” James said.
This was the game the Bucks wanted badly, and they played well in the beginning, but, just as it did in Games 1 and 2, the Heat took over when it was time to get serious. Miami put Game 2 away with a 12-0 run to begin the third quarter, and on Thursday, the Heat put the game away with a 15-1 run spanning the end of the third period and the beginning of the fourth.
The bulk of the run came with James directing the Heat’s four second-rotation reserves: Shane Battier, Chris Andersen, Norris Cole and Ray Allen. As if they’ve played together for years, Andersen and James once again provided the key second-half spark. Allen and Cole did the rest from behind the arc.
“Defensively, we got stops,” James said, “and we didn’t foul late in the third quarter and offensively we executed. …We were able to stretch that lead out.”
James went inside for a hard-earned layup with 32.7 seconds left in the third quarter to put the Heat ahead 76-68. On the Heat’s next possession, he went inside to Andersen, who finished the play with a dunk. Andersen finished with 11 points and six rebounds in 14 minutes. He is shooting 13 of 15 (86.6 percent) in the series.
James had 22 points, five rebounds and six assists and went 9 of 14 from the field but for the second straight game, wasn’t the Heat’s leading scorer. Dwyane Wade led the Heat in Game 2, and Ray Allen was the points leader in Game 3, scoring 23 off the bench in about 30 minutes.
“We’ve got so many guys sitting on the bench that are so productive,” Allen said. “It’s a great testament to this team and how we’ve grown from Day One to now.”
Allen was 8 of 14 from the field and 5 of 8 from three-point range, making a series of backbreaking baskets in crunch time. His five three-pointers put him ahead of Reggie Miller for the all-time postseason record in NBA history. He now has 322 postseason three-pointers in his career.
“I think about all the guys that came before me,” Allen said. “There were so many great players and great shooters and great athletes in general, and I’ve been able to leave my mark.”
With the game in hand, Allen drained a three-pointer with 8:35 left and James started jumping out of his chair and screaming at the top of his lungs. He said a few things in celebration, too, but most can’t be printed in a newspaper.
“I knew he needed one more to break the record, and I was very excited for him,” said James, who finished with 22 points, five rebounds and six assists.
The Heat was 8 of 19 as a team from three-point range. The Bucks were 7 of 26 (26.9 percent).
“They’re such an unselfish team,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “They play to whoever’s hot.”
James had a subpar game compared to his averages, Wade scored in single digits for just the third time in a postseason game, and Chris Bosh had 16 points. Yet the Heat blew out the Bucks for the third game in a row. In other words, the Bucks don’t seem to stand a chance in Game 4.
“They’ve been able to close out quarters against us, and we haven’t been able to close out quarters at all,” said Milwaukee guard Brandon Jennings, who was 5 of 15 for 16 points.
Wade went 1 of 12 from the field, scoring just one field goal in a playoff game for the second time in his career. The poor shooting was a product of a sore right forearm. Throughout the game, Wade favored his arm, and trainers were constantly massaging it during timeouts and before the second half.
Wade also aggravated his already sore knee in the first half. Still, he found a way to contribute despite the bumps and bruises, adding 11 assists and nine rebounds to his four points.
“I had to do other things tonight,” Wade said. “It’s the playoffs. That’s when it’s time to do other things.”
The Heat fell behind by 10 points in the first half before cutting the Bucks’ lead to 50-48 at halftime. Larry Sanders had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Ersan Ilyasova had 15 points and eight rebounds. Ekpe Udoh and J.J. Redick had 11 points off the bench for Milwaukee, which has been outrebounded by the Heat in all three games. The Heat won the rebounding battle 43-38 in Game 3.
“As a team, we showed a lot of guts and grit,” Wade said. “Now we have to try to close it out Sunday.”