Thu, May 18, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Heat win series as Wade steals show

NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION Miami rallied from 12 points down, the biggest postseason comeback in franchise history, and now they're off to the Eastern Conference finals against either Cleveland or Detroit

AP , MIAMI, FLORIDA AND PHOENIX, ARIZONA

Dwyane Wade of the Heat screams after a play against the Nets in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal in Miami, Florida, on Tuesday. Miami defeated New Jersey 106-105 to win the series 4-1 and advance to the conference final.

PHOTO: AFP

The Heat and Nets alternated blowouts in the first two games, giving every indication these Eastern Conference semifinals could be epic.

Ah, but Dwyane Wade and Miami simply saw no need for unnecessary drama. They made all the biggest plays over the rest of the series, right until the very last second of New Jersey's season.

Wade stole Jason Kidd's inbounds pass as the last second ticked off on Tuesday night, depriving the Nets of one last shot to extend their year and sealing the Heat's 106-105 victory to win the series 4-1.

Miami is off to the East finals for the second straight year.

"With one second left, all you want to do is make it tough," Wade said. "And I was able to get there, get my hand on the ball, and that was all she wrote."

Wade threw the ball into the stands as time expired. The Heat will face either Detroit or Cleveland in the next series, which won't begin until at least Sunday.

"We did what we wanted to do," Shaquille O'Neal said. "We're focused now on eight more wins."

The Heat rallied from 12 points down, the biggest postseason comeback in franchise history. Antoine Walker had 23 points, 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.

"We felt we could come in and compete with this team," Carter said. "Playoff basketball is another whole level."

It's a level Wade and his mates handled with aplomb in the last four games.

New Jersey took control early in Game 1 and rolled to a 100-88 win, and the Heat evened the series by jumping to a 25-4 lead on the way to winning Game 2.

The next three games were classics. And Wade found a way to control each at the end.

* In Game 3, the Nets led 64-56 in the third quarter when Wade returned from getting a Carter elbow in the face. He scored 15 points in the final 4 1/2 minutes to seal Miami's win at the Meadowlands.

* In Game 4, he found Gary Payton for a clinching 3-pointer in the final moments.

* And then Tuesday, Wade beat a double-team by finding Walker for a 3-pointer with 1:56 left to put Miami up by six before getting his arm in to knock away New Jersey's final touch of the season.

"Dwyane just made a play," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "He just went for the ball. The ball was in the area, he just went for the ball, got a long arm on it, and that was it. Just had to knock it away."

Carter, who'd scored three points in the previous 17 minutes, had three baskets from in close over a 90-second stretch toward the end, including a dunk that drew the Nets within 106-105 with 29.1 seconds left.

And after 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 off a shot.

The Heat became the sixth team in 20 seasons to lose the first game of a playoff series, then win the next four to advance.

"It's just great that we could finish it," Riley said. "I knew it would be the hardest close-out."

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 -- who have never advanced past the East finals.

Kidd had 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds for the Nets, who got 14 points from Lamond Murray.

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