NEW YORK -- Urgency. At last.
When needed most.
After mostly meandering through the first seven games of this postseason, the Miami Heat finally made a stand Monday night, a stand that now has them within one victory of a fourth consecutive appearance in the Eastern Conference finals.
With 49 points from LeBron James, a key late 3-pointer from center Chris Bosh and enough defensive pressure late, the Heat escaped Barclays Center with a 102-96 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, now up 3-1 in this beat-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series that continues with Game 5 Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
"We're going to have to go back and just regroup," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, with the Nets pushing the Heat harder than any team since the San Antonio Spurs in last season's NBA Finals. "We have respect for this group. There's nothing easy that's going to happen in this series."
It certainly wasn't easy for Bosh, who was 1 of 5 on 3-pointers until his corner 3-pointer with 57.3 seconds to play put the Heat ahead for good, 97-94.
And even on that play, James had a decisive hand, starting the sequence that swung the ball to Bosh for his game-winner.
"He just showed great poise and trust to make the right basketball play," Spoelstra said of James, "He reads the game as well as anybody that's played the game."
Even before the Nets came in waves, aware of the odds of fighting back from down 3-1, Heat guard Dwyane Wade acknowledged there hadn't been pressure like this for his team since winning Game 7 of last year's NBA Finals, having swept the Charlotte Bobcats 4-0 in the opening round and then a 2-0 lead in this series.
While there were more than a few uneven moments, the Heat stood up to the challenge.
"We're trying to crack the code," Spoelstra said of the Nets defense creating the late challenge. "It's not an easy code."
The Heat entered without consecutive playoff losses since the 2012 Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics and kept that streak alive, even as James played amid foul trouble.
"He was what was needed on the road," Spoelstra understated of James. "He was fantastic."
Bosh? He was timely. And, to the Nets, back-breaking.
"They made the shot and we didn't," Nets coach Jason Kidd said.
"Bosh knocks down a three in the corner, but before that both teams were struggling."
All except James. And it seemed even tying his playoff career best wouldn't be enough.�
"Forty-nine points, the game is tied, and we had a chance to win," Kidd said.
A Game 6, if needed, would be Friday night back at Barclays Center.
"We got some stops, man," Wade said of escaping with the win. "It was all about defense down the stretch.
"All we wanted to do was get one of these games (in Brooklyn), and we did it."
The winner of this series faces the winner of the other Eastern Conference semifinals, which the Indiana Pacers lead 3-1 against the Washington Wizards going into Tuesday's Game 5 in Indiana.
Should both of the East semifinals end in six or fewer games, the Eastern Conference finals would open Sunday in Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Wade supported James with 15 points, with Bosh scoring 12.
Forward Joe Johnson led the Nets with 18 points, with forward Paul Pierce adding 16 points for Brooklyn.
Johnson tried to foul out James late, but James instead came up with a key late stop against Johnson, who said James "flopped" on the sequence.
"I should have known they wouldn't call foul," he said.
James played 43 of the 48 minutes.
"Whatever it takes at this point in the competition," Spoelstra said.
A James 3-pointer that gave him 46 points put the Heat up 92-90, matched by a pair of Johnson free throws for a 92-92 tie.
Back came James with points Nos. 47 and 48 on a driving layup for a 94-92 Heat lead. But moments later he was called for his fifth foul with 2:30 to play, with Kevin Garnett tying it 94-94 with a pair of free throws with 2:30 to play.
Back and forth the teams went, until Bosh's 3-pointer.
"Our 3-point shooters," Spoelstra said, "we want them having a free mind, and he is one of our best ones."
Until then, it essentially was all James.
When Heat guard Ray Allen converted a 3-pointer to put the Heat up 76-71 in the third quarter, it ended a run of 13 consecutive Heat points from James.
The Heat was so James-centric in the third that they did not have a single assist in the quarter, James' free throws minimizing those possibilities.
James went into the fourth quarter with 40 points, taking 15 of the Heat's 17 free throws through the opening three periods, with center Chris Andersen taking the other two.
It was chippy from the outset, with scrums between Pierce and Shane Battier, and then between James and Alan Anderson leading to a pair of double-technicals in each incident by the midpoint of the first quarter.
The Heat were coming off Saturday's 104-90 Game 3 loss, which snapped their eight-game playoff winning streak.
"We let one get away," Johnson said, "but we still had a chance to win. Just didn't get it done."
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