Everyone in the Miami huddle was bracing for a grind to the finish. On the other end, the sense around the Milwaukee bench was that an upset was there for the taking.
Then the Heat landed a swift knockout punch. Dwyane Wade scored 21 points, LeBron James had 19, and the Heat used a frantic start to the fourth quarter to pull away and beat the Bucks, 98-86, in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first-round series Tuesday night in Miami.
It was 68-65 entering the fourth. With James and four backups on the court, the Heat needed only 2:22 to outscore Milwaukee, 12-0, and stretch the lead to 80-65 — ensuring the reigning NBA champions would take a 2-0 series lead into Game 3 on Thursday night.
‘‘We held court,’’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ‘‘We protected it for two games. We did what we’re supposed to do. And that’s it.’’
Chris Bosh, Shane Battier, and Chris Andersen all scored 10 points for the Heat. James’s postseason streaks of 22 straight games with at least 20 points, and 16 straight games of at least 25 points, came to an end. Ultimately, none of that mattered.
‘‘We didn’t get into our game like we wanted to in that third quarter,’’ James said. ‘‘But we went into the fourth with a [3-point] lead and we were able to jump on them.’’
Ersan Ilyasova scored 21 points for Milwaukee, which got 16 from Mike Dunleavy and 14 from Larry Sanders. The Bucks’ starting guards, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, combined for 15 points — after teaming to score 48 in Game 1.
Warriors 131, Nuggets 117 — Stephen Curry had 30 points and 13 assists and Golden State handed Denver its first loss at home in more than three months, a stunner that evened their playoff series at a game each.
Jarrett Jack added 26 points as the sixth-seeded Warriors wrested homecourt advantage from the NBA’s best home team as the series shifts to Oakland for Game 3 on Friday night.
It was just the second road win of the playoffs following Chicago’s win at Brooklyn on Monday.
The third-seeded Nuggets were an NBA-best 38-3 at home during the regular season but needed Andre Miller’s last-second shot to beat Golden State by a basket in the opener and extend their franchise-best winning streak to 24 games.
Ty Lawson and Corey Brewer each scored 19 for Denver.