MIAMI, April 24 (Ticker) --
The New Jersey Nets have much more to worry
about than just Shaquille O'Neal
With O'Neal opening things up on the perimeter, Dwyane Wade
combined to make 22-of-30 shots as the Miami Heat
rolled to a 116-98 victory over the Nets in the opener of their
Eastern Conference first-round series.
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In a star-studded series that features O'Neal, Jason Kidd
, Wade and Jones stole the show.
Wade, an All-Star in just his second season, made 12-of-18 shots
and scored a playoff career-high 32 points, doing a majority of
his damage against Kidd. He also handed out eight assists.
"The playoffs are a time for players to step up," said Wade,
whose previous playoff high was 27 points. "If you consider
yourself a leader and a player, it's time to step up. That's
what I tried to do."
"What makes him (Wade) a great player is the fact there is no
fear," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy
said. "He made some
adjustments from the way that they had played him during the
regular season. He made himself very difficult to guard.
Hopefully, that will continue."
A journeyman shooting guard, Jones benefited from the
double-teams the 7-1, 325-pound O'Neal was receiving. He scored
a playoff career-high 30 points, making seven 3-pointers and
going 10-of-12 from the floor.
"I knew they were going to double down on Shaq and try to take
away Dwyane's penetration," said Jones, whose previous playoff
high was 17 points. "I didn't know if they were going to close
out or just let me shoot, but it was really good to get those
open looks and for the ball to fall in for me tonight. It gave
me a lot of confidence. The basket felt very, very big - like
"He got a lot of open shots and he is a great shooter," Van
Gundy said. "He knocked them down and he was phenomenal."
Wade scored 15 points and Jones 13 in the first half, helping
the top-seeded Heat open a 54-42 lead. They never let the lead
dip below double digits in the second half and led by as many as
20 points in the fourth quarter.
"Wade and Damon Jones were really, really special," Nets coach
said. "And because of the attention Shaq
demands, we've got to go back to the drawing board."
A three-time NBA Finals MVP, O'Neal was a game-time decision
after missing five of the last eight regular-season games with a
stomach ailment and bruised thigh. He had consecutive dunks to
start the contest and collected 17 points and 11 rebounds in 32
"I knew I wasn't going to be the regular playoff diesel that
America is used to," said O'Neal, who averaged 36.3 points when
he helped the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Nets in the 2002
"I didn't have that explosiveness, that firecracker
explosiveness. If the team plays like this with a 40 percent
Shaq, imagine what we'll do as I improve. I told the guys
they're good enough to get it done without me or in a limited
Miami, which has beaten New Jersey by at least 16 points in all
four meetings this season, hosts Game 2 on Tuesday.
Carter scored 27 points and Kidd 18 for the eighth-seeded Nets,
who played their way into the postseason by winning 15 of their
last 19 games.
The Nets' star tandem was brutal early as they combined to miss
14 of their first 17 shots, allowing the Heat to race to a 38-24
lead with 6:22 left in the first half.
With O'Neal on the bench early in the second quarter, the Heat
received a boost from Alonzo Mourning
, who started the season
with the Nets, was traded to Toronto in the Carter deal in
December and signed with the Heat.
Mourning had a follow dunk and layup to trigger a 16-5 burst to
open the second quarter that gave the Heat control. He had six
points and three rebounds in 14 effective minutes off the bench.
Jones drilled three 3-pointers in the second quarter, the final
one at the 1:59 mark gave the Heat their biggest lead of the
first half at 51-35. After Wade scored 10 points in the first
quarter, Jones had eight in the second. The duo helped the Heat
shoot 53 percent (20-of-38) in the first half.
With Carter and Kidd misfiring early, the Nets missed 16 of 17
shots in an 11 1/2-minute stretch of the half in which they shot
just 36 percent (14-of-39).
Kidd, who missed all eight of his shots and went scoreless in
last season's Game Seven loss at Detroit in the conference
semifinals, went just 2-of-10 in the first half. He finished
Carter's follow shot with 7:01 left in the third quarter pulled
the Nets within 66-56. But Udonis Haslem
, who had 11 points and
11 rebounds, scored five points in a 9-2 surge to give the Heat
Wade also helped the Heat gradually pull away. He made 5-of-6
shots and scored 12 points in the third quarter that ended with
the Heat holding an 87-73 lead.
Jones made all five of his shots and scored 14 points in the
"They were knocking down shots from the perimeter," Nets center
said. "Basically, it was catch and shoot. We were
paying a lot of attention to Shaq. There was some
miscommunication out there. Things that we should know better.
We made a lot of mistakes defensively, and they converted on
added 10 points for the Heat, who shot 59 percent
(42-of-71), including 9-of-15 from the arc.
"We knew they could score a lot of points if we didn't defend
the three," Carter said. "Anytime you play a Shaq team you have
to address that (perimeter defense), but you can't forget about
the other guys," Kidd said.
Nets All-Star forward Richard Jefferson
, who missed the final 49
regular-season games after undergoing surgery for a ruptured
ligament in his left wrist, returned to the lineup and scored
nine points in 23 minutes.