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Bucks 104, Hornets 92
Put Me In, Coach
MILWAUKEE, May 6 (AP) -- Ray Allen, who starred with Denzel Washington in Spike Lee's movie "He Got Game," was a hit on the small screen Sunday.

Allen celebrated his first NBC appearance in a Milwaukee uniform by scoring 26 points in the Bucks' 104-92 victory over the Charlotte Hornets to open their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Ray Allen led all scorers in Game 1.
AP Photos TV highlights: 28.8+ | ISDN+
Nine of his points came in the fourth quarter, when the Bucks saw their 22-point third-quarter lead whittled to four.

The Bucks hadn't been on NBC since Feb. 18, 1996, while Allen was still at Connecticut.

"You know that people around the world are watching," Allen said. "That's why we play basketball, to go out and play an afternoon game and have the rest of the day to enjoy and go watch the rest of the games."

The Central Division champion Bucks and coach George Karl were miffed that NBC snubbed them in their first-round series with Orlando. They were eager to display their high-flying style to a bigger audience, much the way the Sacramento Kings did with their exciting brand of basketball last year.

"We watched Sacramento turn it up for a while, and to be able to do that now we'll have a lot of new fans across the country," Allen said. "And we'll have a lot of free agents that way to play here as well."

Allen admitted he got the broadcast bug just before the game.

"I never care about being on TV because the game to me is the same," he said. "But being on TV is respect. I think every guy cares that we were on. Once we start playing more games on TV, it will be commonplace and we'll just go out and play and not worry about it."

Sam Cassell added 20 points and Glenn Robinson dished out a career-high 11 assists as the Bucks won the opener of their first best-of-seven series in 12 seasons.

Jamal Mashburn led Charlotte with 23 points, but his only basket of the fourth quarter came with 28 seconds left and his team down 101-90.

Game 2 is Tuesday night at the Bradley Center, where the Bucks have won 29 of their last 34 games.

The Hornets, who beat the Bucks by double digits three times during the regular season, trailed by 15 at halftime and fell behind by as many as 22 before pulling within five entering the fourth quarter.

The Bucks, who held their own with the best rebounding team in the league, appeared well on their way to a rout when Scott Williams returned from a tumble out of bounds to block a shot by Mashburn and score on a reverse layup that gave Milwaukee a 64-42 lead with 8:40 left in the third quarter.

Darvin Ham's dunk made it 68-46 before the jump-shooting Bucks went ice cold and Mashburn scored 10 points in a 27-10 run that pulled the Hornets to 78-73 after three quarters.

"We're expert at blowing leads," Karl said. "I told myself I wasn't going to get worried about it until it got under five."

Which it did, three times, the last at 89-85 with 3 1/2 minutes left when David Wesley hit a fadeaway from the right baseline.

Allen responded with two free throws and Robinson blocked a shot by Elden Campbell and dunked at the other end for a 93-85 lead. Allen added breakaway baskets to make it 97-85.

"When you're down 20 points, you have to be perfect to make that kind of a comeback," Wesley said. "You have to get all the stops, you have to make all the shots, no turnovers, things like that. And that's just not realistic.

"But we made a run, we didn't give up and that's good. Tuesday we won't get down 20."

Mashburn was hounded by Ham, Robinson and Thomas in the first half.

"Early on he was a little rusty," Hornets coach Paul Silas said. "More of those (shots) will go down as the series continues."

The Hornets, playing for the first time in nine days after sweeping Miami, jumped out to a 10-2 lead before the Bucks took a 55-40 halftime lead.

Karl knew the drought was coming, though.

"When 80 to 85 percent of your shots are jump shots, you're not going to shoot well all game long," he said. "You have to find a way to survive those stretches."

Notes: The Hornets were 14-of-19 from the foul line in the third quarter. ... During pregame introductions, the Bucks announced C Mark Pope as their starter, but Ham actually got the nod, which upset Silas. Karl apologized for the mixup, saying it was unintentional but nevertheless unprofessional. ... The Bucks were swept by Detroit in their last trip to the semifinals, in 1989. ... Karl tied Rudy Tomjanovich with his 51st career playoff victory, 15th on the all-time list. ... Mashburn hit his first three foul shots, making him 28-of-28 in the playoffs, before he missed two free throws in the midst of Charlotte's third-quarter run.

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