Regular Season Series (Game 4 of 4)

Series starts 11/19

Game 1: Tuesday, November 19th
Game 2: Tuesday, March 4th
Game 3: Sunday, March 30th
Game 4: Monday, March 31st

Bucks 91

(36-39, 16-23 away)

Heat 86

(23-52, 15-23 home)

    7:30 PM ET, March 31, 2003

    AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL

    1 2 3 4 T
    MIL 20 25 19 2791
    MIA 21 13 28 2486

    Top Performers

    Mil: G. Payton 20 Pts, 6 Reb, 9 Ast, 3 Stl

    Mia: B. Grant 15 Pts, 17 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl

    Bucks clinging to East's final playoff spot

    MIAMI (AP) -- With an important game with playoff implications on the line, the Milwaukee Bucks turned to Sam Cassell.

    Smart move.

    Cassell scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, and the Bucks closed with a 17-6 run over the final 4 1/2 minutes to beat the Miami Heat 91-86 Monday night.

    Gary Payton also scored 20 points as the Bucks opened a one-game lead over the Washington Wizards for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

    "We're going to get the eighth spot -- we're not fighting for it,'' Cassell said. "We have it right now. It isn't going to be easy, but nothing worth having does come easy.''

    The Bucks, who blew out the Heat 109-87 on Sunday, didn't have it so easy this time.

    "We had to fight from behind tonight and win it in the fourth quarter,'' Bucks coach George Karl said.

    Milwaukee had trouble stopping Eddie House, who came off the bench to score a season-high 21 points, and trailed 80-74 with less than five minutes to play.

    That's when Cassell stepped up, knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 80 with 3:24 left.

    Desmond Mason's jumper put the Bucks ahead 83-82 with 1:04 to go. Cassell scored again to open an 85-82 lead, and after Travis Best cut it to one point with a driving layup, Cassell made two free throws for an 87-84 lead with 21 seconds remaining.

    The Heat couldn't convert, and Cassell added two more free throws to clinch it for Milwaukee.

    "We did what we had to do,'' Cassell said. "Down the stretch, I'm supposed to make big shots. I hit big shots everywhere. This is something I have become accustomed to doing. I'm not afraid to be the goat.''

    Miami trailed 71-62 early in the final quarter but tied it at 71 when Best hit a 3-pointer with 8:10 left.

    Brian Grant scored 15 points and had 17 rebounds, and rookie Rasual Butler added 15 points for the Heat. Vladimir Stepania had 11 points and 13 rebounds in just his fourth start of the season.

    Payton also had nine assists and six rebounds for the Bucks, and reserve Michael Redd added 14 points.

    The Heat used a zone defense for much of the game, forcing the Bucks to shoot from the outside. The strategy worked for part of the game, until Cassell and others hit open jumpers down the stretch.

    "We were a little late on Cassell's 3s when we were ahead,'' Heat coach Pat Riley said. "We got sucked into the penetration. It wasn't that threatening, and we left him wide open and he made them.''

    Miami has lost five of six and 13 of 17.

    "We played well enough to win,'' Grant said. "We had opportunities. They did a good job of stretching our zone, and Sam stepped up and made big 3s for them. What's why he and Payton are great players.''

    Game notes

    Heat rookie Caron Butler, who scored 59 points in his last two games, missed the game with a sore left knee. ... House has scored in double figures six straight games. ... The Bucks were without starting forward Anthony Mason (left thigh) and backup Jason Caffey (back) to injuries. ... Karl coached his 1,200th NBA game. ... With the loss, the Heat finished with their worst month of the year, winding up 4-13 in March.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 91 86
    FGM-FGA 35-86 (.407) 33-83 (.398)
    3PM-3PA 7-20 (.350) 7-22 (.318)
    FTM-FTA 14-17 (.824) 13-17 (.765)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 10-43 13-52
    Assists 19 25
    Turnovers 6 13
    Steals 7 5
    Blocks 5 2
    Fast Break Points 1 9
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 16 (0/0) 20 (1/0)

    Top Performers

    Gary Payton Payton
    Points: 20
    Reb: 6
    Ast: 9
    Stl: 3
    Blk: 0
    Brian Grant Grant
    Points: 15
    Reb: 17
    Ast: 4
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 0