CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 13 (AP) -- Jamal Mashburn
is the star of the Hornets, he's lifted his team back into the Eastern Conference playoffs and his mother is successfully battling colon cancer.
|Jamal Mashburn fights off Glenn Robinson for the layup.|
|NBA.com TV highlights: 28.8+ |
|Mashburn Highlight Reel: 28.8+ |
For Mashburn, things couldn't be any better.
Mashburn scored 31 points Sunday to lead Charlotte to an 85-78 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, evening the best-of-seven playoff series 2-2.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Milwaukee and the home team has so far won every game.
Mashburn, who scored 36 in Game 3, became the first Hornet to score 30 or more points in consecutive playoff appearances and helped Charlotte win two second-round games for the first time in franchise history.
"I'm just a guy playing, just out there doing his job," Mashburn said. "And I like doing it here. There's a lot of camaraderie and everyone's really upbeat and everyone likes each other. The last time I could say that was in college at Kentucky, so I guess this is the happiest I've been since then."
Making it more special for Mashburn was that his mother, Helen, who has battled colon cancer all season, was able to sit courtside as part of a Mother's Day special. It was just her third game this year because her illness has prevented her from traveling.
But on Sunday, she was inches away watching her son shed every defense the Bucks tried while scoring on five of six possessions down the stretch to lock up the victory.
"As a player, it's nice to have her here, but as a son, it means so much more," he said. "To see her able to move around and be active like her old self and be sitting courtside, it's so special."
Just like Mashburn's play has been in the last two games.
For 3 1/2 years in Miami, the knock on Mashburn was he couldn't produce in the fourth quarter and he took the blame for so many of the Heat's playoff failures.
But he's taken steps toward shedding the label this year in Charlotte and took a huge stride Sunday by scoring nine of his points in the fourth.
"I think Mash is opening some eyes," Charlotte coach Paul Silas said. "The playoffs are when reputations are made, and I think right now he's really making his reputation."
With the game tied at 70, Mashburn hit a turnaround jumper over Tim Thomas
. After Baron Davis
hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to put Charlotte up 75-70, Mashburn scored seven points in a 1:34 span to give the Hornets an 82-72 lead with 4:20 to play.
He had a tip-in off P.J. Brown
's miss, added a jumper, a one-handed floater over Glenn Robinson
and a free throw.
Mashburn finished 11-for-26 from the floor and 9-for-9 from the free-throw line. He also had eight rebounds and four assists.
"He's tremendous," Davis said. "We're going to ride his coattails the whole series, it's up to him to make jumpers and hit big baskets and that's what he did today."
The Bucks tried various defenses on Mashburn on Sunday, but a double-team in the first half and various combinations of Darvin Ham
, Thomas and Robinson all failed.
"He's doing a number on our guys out there, that's for sure," forward Scott Williams
But the Bucks also hurt themselves, committing 24 turnovers and only making one field goal in a five-minute stretch of the fourth quarter. They also shot 7-for-22 from 3-point range, 7-of-16 from the line and had poor shooting nights from almost everyone.
scored 19 and Robinson had 17, but Sam Cassell
and Williams only scored eight points each and Ham failed to score or get a single rebound.
"We had some ugly stats," coach George Karl said. "I am not happy about how we played, but feeling this way is part of the process. We've got to come up with some answers before Tuesday."
After making just one field goal in the first half, Allen warmed up in the third quarter by scoring 12 points and giving the Bucks a 64-60 lead on a driving layup and a 3-pointer on consecutive possessions.
But Milwaukee got sloppy on its next five trips down the floor. The Bucks turned the ball over on a shot clock violation, a travel and two misses by Robinson -- one that resulted in a basket interference call against him.
"We make it tough on ourselves when we play this sloppy and turn the ball over and I have a lot to do with that," guard Cassell said. "We have to do a better job on Mashburn because he is controlling the game right now."
Campbell and Williams, hit with double technicals in Game 3 for shoving, were hit with a pair early in the first quarter for being physical with each other as they ran down the court. ... Fearing a small Sunday crowd, the Hornets offered a two-for-one special on tickets purchased over the Internet. ... At one point in the first quarter, Brown had eight rebounds -- one more than the entire Milwaukee team.