MIAMI, April 18 (Ticker) -- Dwyane Wade's first playoff game couldn't have ended any sweeter.

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Wade's pull-up eight-footer with 1.3 seconds left gave the Miami Heat an 81-79 victory over the New Orleans Hornets in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.

"I've always been the kind of person who likes to take the big shot," Wade said. "I wanted to make coach proud."

"Dwyane was not the least bit afraid in that situation," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. "He was thrilled to get his number called on that play. he's the type of player who wants to be in on that big stage. He really came through."

A 6-4 combo guard, Wade averaged 16.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists this season, becoming just the seventh rookie since 1990 with averages of 15 points, four rebounds and four assists.

Despite helping the fourth-seeded Heat reach the playoffs for the first time since 2001, Wade never could crash the conversations regarding Rookie of the Year, which were limited to LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Miami's Dwyane Wade puts up the game-winning shot against the Hornets.
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images
"We don't look at him as being a rookie," Van Gundy said. "We want the ball going to someone who can get it done."

Showing no jitters in his first postseason game, Wade collected 21 points, five rebounds and five assists. He led a second-half surge that gave Miami a 77-65 lead with 7:26 to play.

"The intensity was up," Wade said. "These are the kind of games and situation you dream about playing in. It was just an incredible feeling."

But the Heat went cold and the Hornets rallied, forging a 79-79 tie on P.J. Brown's 15-footer with 53 seconds to go. The teams traded empty possessions before Wade's heroics.

Working against All-Star guard and steals leader Baron Davis, Wade dribbled down the clock before blowing past Davis into the lane and pulling up for a floater that gave the Heat the lead and brought a roar from the record crowd of 20,102 at American Airlines Arena.

"The play was for Dwyane, but we had the option on the other side with Eddie (Jones) if somebody came on him," Van Gundy said. "Where it's going to be an isolation like that, it's going to be Lamar (Odom) or Dwyane. We want the ball in one of their hands to make the play when it's on the line."

"Coach put the ball in my hand and I knew I had to go strong and make something happen," Wade said. "With the crowd and all, it made it very emotional for me and the team."

While Wade dribbled and drove, Davis did not take an extra foul the Hornets could have used to stop the play before it developed.

"We had a foul to give and we didn't give it," Hornets guard Steve Smith said.

Caron Butler deflected Smith's inbounds pass into the backcourt on the ensuing possession, ending Miami's five-game playoff slide dating to the 2000 conference semifinals.

Odom had 17 points and 11 rebounds but committed seven turnovers for the Heat, who survived despite some sloppy play. Rafer Alston added 13 points and Butler 12. All three were playing their first postseason games.

Davis scored 17 points and Jamaal Magloire and David Wesley added 14 each for the Hornets, who swept the Heat in the best-of-five first round in 2001 but never have won a best-of-seven series.

Game 2 is Wednesday at Miami.

"Everybody's taking it personal and we're going to come back with a vengeance," said Magloire, who grabbed 11 rebounds.

Wade scored nine points in the third quarter as Miami took a 66-59 lead into the final period. He added a driving lefthanded layup and a steal and dunk to push the lead to 12 points.

Davis, whose only four baskets in 15 shots were 3-pointers, made a pair from the arc to cut the deficit to 77-74 with 3:27 to play. Alston made a jumper, but Wesley made a free throw and Stacey Augmon hit a jumper before Brown tied it.

"It's like we were trying to run out the clock after taking that big lead," Van Gundy said. "We were walking up the floor and trying to grind it out and we're not that type of team."