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Friday, April 29, 2011

Spurs survive Game 5 after Neal saves day


SAN ANTONIO — Gary Neal caught an inbounds pass with 1.7 seconds left and forced overtime with a 3-point heave as time expired, and the San Antonio Spurs staved off elimination by stunning the Memphis Grizzlies 110-103 on Wednesday night.

Neal's straightaway 3-pointer was the second of two remarkable San Antonio baskets in the final 2.2 seconds of regulation. Manu Ginobili, who scored 33 points, hit the other with a long corner jumper while falling out of bounds to keep top-seeded San Antonio alive.

The basket was originally ruled a 3 that would have tied the score, but the officials went to video review and ruled Ginobili's toe was on the line.

The eighth-seeded Grizzlies lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 and they will host the Spurs on Friday night.

But Memphis will likely go home thinking it missed a knockout punch.

"Coach Pop set up a great play, Tim Duncan set up a great screen," said Neal, who buried the shot with Grizzlies forward O.J. Mayo running toward him.

Biggest shot the rookie's ever hit?

"Yeah," Neal said. "By far."

Only eight teams in NBA history have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit. The Spurs, who were the NBA's winningest team for most of the season, are desperate to join that list in what may be their last good shot to win a fifth championship in the Tim Duncan era.

Zach Randolph led Memphis with 26 points and 11 rebounds. He scored 18 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, but San Antonio's Tony Parker scored six of his 24 points in overtime to help ensure there will be a Game 6 in Memphis.

It will be a long trip back for the Grizzlies.

They were 2.2 seconds from becoming just the fourth No. 8 seed in NBA history to win a playoff series, and finishing off the 61-win Spurs in only five games.

Heat 97, 76ers 91

In Miami, Dwyane Wade scored 26 points, Chris Bosh added 22 points and 11 rebounds, and the Heat advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals by beating Philadelphia. Mario Chalmers scored 20 points and LeBron James finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for Miami.

Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand each scored 22 points for the 76ers, who got 13 points from Thaddeus Young, 12 from Jodie Meeks and 10 from Jrue Holiday.

Thunder 100, Nuggets 97

In Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant matched his best playoff performance with 41 points, including the final nine for the Thunder, and the hosts closed out the first-round series in five games.

Oklahoma City, which overcame a nine-point deficit over the final 4 minutes, won its first playoff series since the franchise was in Seattle in 2005.

Serge Ibaka blocked nine shots for the Thunder in the win.

Arron Afflalo, who missed the first two games of the series with a hamstring strain, led Denver with 15 points.

Warriors fire Smart

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors parted ways with coach Keith Smart on Wednesday, the first major fallout this offseason from a new ownership group that has promised sweeping changes to the perennial underachieving franchise.

Smart spent seven years as an assistant with Golden State before he replaced 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 owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber.

The coach met with team brass Wednesday morning and was told he wouldn't be retained.

Golden State already had decided to keep general manager Larry Riley. The team also hired longtime NBA agent Bob Myers a few weeks ago to be the assistant general manager and Riley's eventual successor.

Lacob said Riley and his staff will make the choice on a new coach, with his input. While Lacob would prefer someone with previous NBA head coaching experience, that won't be a requirement. He declined to say whether the Warriors are interested in former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan or NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy — two names that have already surfaced.

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