LOS ANGELES • Courtney Lee did it again. From virtually the same spot on the floor and for the second game in a row, he grabbed a crucial long rebound off the offensive boards.
This time, the Charlotte Hornets guard went back up court and drained a three-pointer with 28.9 seconds left, leading his team to a 90-88 victory over the Miami Heat on Wednesday at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.
Lee also had a key block on Heat guard Dwyane Wade with 2.6 seconds left. But his heroics started with his rebound.
"I guess his anticipation," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said when asked how the 1.95m Lee managed to grab the most vital rebounds for two games in a row. "He's a terrific athlete, and he has good timing."
Thanks in large measure to Lee, the Hornets, who have won three straight games, have a 3-2 lead over Miami in their first-round Eastern Conference play-off series.
They can end the best-of-seven series with a win at home today.
The Heat, who have won 21 of their past 28 play-off series, still have a shot but they will likely have to play better in the clutch to advance.
They led 88-87 in Wednesday's final minute. Hornets guard Kemba Walker missed a jumper, and that is when Lee swooped.
He not only grabbed the rebound, but also made the crucial shot even though he was only one-of-eight from the floor at the time.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said: "It was a long rebound, and those end up being pursuits. It was a tough bounce, a long bounce. Then it becomes a scramble. And we didn't scramble."
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Lee made Charlotte's big play. After all, he is the only Hornets player with NBA Finals experience, having played for the 2009 Orlando Magic.
At the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Portland Trail Blazers took full advantage of the Los Angeles Clippers' injury woes to score a convincing 108-98 victory and claim a pivotal 3-2 series lead in their Western Conference play-off battle.
The Clippers, rocked by injuries to key players Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, fought bravely to stay in touch heading into the fourth quarter.
But as the game reached its critical phase, Portland sealed a deserved win which leaves them needing just one more win to advance.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE