Heat’s historic comeback knocks off Nets
MIAMI – Dwyane Wade struggled all night offensively, so he sent the Miami Heat into the Eastern Conference finals with a huge defensive play.Wade stole Jason Kidd’s inbounds pass with 1.4 seconds left Tuesday night, depriving the New Jersey Nets of one last shot to extend their season, and sealing the Heat’s 106-105 victory to win the series 4-1.Wade threw the ball into the stands as time expired, and the Heat raucously celebrated their second straight trip to the conference finals. They’ll face either Detroit or Cleveland in that series, which won’t begin until at least Sunday afternoon.The Heat rallied from 12 points down, the biggest postseason comeback in franchise history. Antoine Walker had 23 points for Miami, Wade added 21 on 7-for-19 shooting, and four other Heat players were in double figures to offset a brilliant effort by Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson.Carter and Jefferson each scored 33 points for the Nets, who won the first game of the series.
Down by three with about two minutes left, the Nets frantically double-teamed Wade near midcourt, so he did the smartest possible thing. He found the man the New Jersey was ignoring, Walker, whose wide-open 3-pointer from the right corner gave Miami a 105-99 lead.It wasn’t over, though.Carter, who’d scored three points in the previous 17 minutes, had three baskets from in close over the next 90 seconds, including a dunk that drew the Nets within 106-105 with 29.1 seconds left.And after Gary Payton missed a 16-footer, the Nets corralled the rebound and called timeout with 1.4 seconds left. But thanks to Wade, they never got a shot off – and Miami survived.The Heat became the sixth team in 20 seasons to lose the first game of a playoff series, then immediately win the next four to advance.
Shaquille O’Neal had 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting, Jason Williams scored 12, Alonzo Mourning had 11 and Payton finished with 10 for the Heat. Kidd had 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds for the Nets, who got 14 points from Lamond Murray.Fighting for their season, the Nets came out looking very much like a team with nothing to lose.New Jersey began taking control on Miami’s first play, when Kidd intercepted Williams’ pass near midcourt and set up Carter for a 3-pointer. Carter added a conventional three-point play 25 seconds later, Jefferson followed with a 3-pointer, and the Nets had a quick 9-2 lead.The Nets’ big three – Carter, Jefferson and Kidd – scored 21 of the team’s first 22 points, helping build a 33-24 edge after one quarter. Carter had 13 points in the period for New Jersey, which had the Heat in a 12-point hole early in the second quarter.Miami rallied, somehow doing so with O’Neal and Wade largely silenced.
O’Neal picked up two fouls in a 57-second span – including an offensive foul called by his refereeing nemesis, Bob Delaney – and departed with 7:19 left in the half after shooting 6-for-7. And Wade was nothing like his usual self in the opening two quarters, going 1-for-9 and scoring only four points before intermission.Instead, Walker and Payton led the charge, combining for 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting in the second quarter. Miami came all the way back to build a three-point lead late in the period before Murray’s right-corner 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds sent the teams into the break tied at 54.Murray couldn’t do it again as the third quarter ended, though, misfiring as Miami entered the final period with an 85-82 lead.Jefferson had 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting in the third quarter, a back-and-forth period where the lead changed hands four times and the game was tied five others.The Nets got within two twice midway in the final period, then tied it when Jefferson hit a jumper with 5:11 remaining. Jefferson was poised to give New Jersey the lead 30 seconds later, but as he prepared to shoot a 20-footer, he was stripped by Wade – who drove for a dunk and a 98-96 lead, one the Heat would never relinquish.
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