MIAMI, June 2 (Ticker) --
The Miami Heat may have to get to the NBA
Finals without Dwyane Wade
Playing virtually the entire fourth quarter without the injured
Wade, the Heat coasted to an 88-76 victory over the Detroit
Pistons to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
A rising star who has carried the Heat in the playoffs in just
his second season, Wade suffered what was called a strained rib
muscle with 5:08 left in the third quarter.
"Well, right now I'm just feeling pain," Wade said. "I just
made a quick move on a crossover and I guess I pulled a muscle
by doing that. It's just pain right now. I expect that, so
hopefully I'll feel better in the morning."
Wade returned for the start of the fourth quarter wearing a flak
jacket. In obvious pain, Wade departed for good with 9:42
remaining, holding his side. The All-Star guard scored 15
points on 4-of-9 shooting before leaving.
Entering Thursday's game, Wade was averaging 29.1 points, 7.1
assists and 6.3 rebounds in the playoffs.
"We don't like playing without him, we don't like playing
without Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal
), but our guys have been through
enough of those times," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy
other guys are very confident in their abilities, and I think
they are highly motivated at those times."
It is uncertain if Wade will play in Game 6 on Saturday.
"If I feel that I can go out and help my team, I will play,"
Wade said. "If I feel that I'm going to go out there and hurt
my team, then I won't."
"Similar to Shaq, 50 percent of Dwyane Wade is better than no
Dwyane Wade at all," said Heat guard Damon Jones
, who scored 15
Losing Wade would be a devastating blow for the Heat, who
already are playing with star center O'Neal at less than full
strength due to a lingering thigh injury.
"If he's not playing, somebody else will have to step up,"
O'Neal said. "There's a good chance Eddie (Jones)
will step up,
there's a good chance Damon (Jones) will step up."
When Wade left the game for the first time, the Heat already had
built a commanding 67-47 lead. The Pistons took advantage of
Wade's absence, using a 13-6 run to pull within striking
distance entering the fourth.
However, the Heat led by double digits the entire fourth quarter
and moved within one win of reaching the NBA Finals for the
first time in their 17-year history.
"We primarily did it with our defense. I thought our guys
fought real hard," Van Gundy said. "We know it will be very
difficult up there, and we're going to have to play extremely
well and at least as hard as we played tonight."
O'Neal scored 20 points and Udonis Haslem
added 14 and 13
rebounds for the Heat, who closed the first half with an 11-0
run for a 53-39 lead.
Miami shot 52 percent (36-of-69) in its best game of the series.
scored 21 points and Chauncey Billups
for the defending champion Pistons, who played their worst game
of the playoffs. Detroit overcame a 3-2 series deficit in the
conference semifinals against New Jersey last season.
"They came to work and got it going," Billups said. "We didn't
expect to have this kind of night. It's a one-game series for
us. If you don't win, it's over. There is urgency for us.
We'll go home with confidence."
After trailing by as many as nine points earlier in the second
quarter, the Pistons pulled within 42-39 at the 2:23 mark on
O'Neal, who was guarded 1-on-1 for much of the night by
, hit a short hook and Eddie Jones made a layup to
trigger the surge to close the half. Wade made four free throws
and Rasual Butler
drilled a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left to
cap the burst.
Butler gave the Heat a lift off the bench, scoring 12 points on
The effort by Butler nearly matched what the Pistons got from
their bench. Five reserves combined for 14 points on 6-of-23
Detroit also received virtually nothing from Rasheed Wallace
who took just three shots and scored two points in 27 minutes.
The talkative forward also picked up a technical foul in the
Like the Heat were after Game Four, Rasheed Wallace
with the officiating.
"They (Miami) had a lot of help out there. It's too blatant out
there," he said.
Rasheed Wallace also issued his latest guarantee, saying, "We're
going to win Game 6."
He issued a similar guarantee in the conference semifinals after
the Pistons lost Game 3 to trail, 2-1, in the series.
Detroit won the final three games.
Hamilton also complained about the officiating.
"I think we let the refs get into our head early, kind of messed
up our flow of the game, but we still need to go out there and
play the game we want to play," he said.
Wade's jumper with 5:32 left in the third quarter gave the Heat
their biggest lead at 67-49. He departed 24 seconds later and
the Pistons seemed to gather momentum from his absence.
Billups scored five points and a Tayshaun Prince
2:45 left in the period narrowed the deficit to 69-59.
Eddie Jones settled things down with a driving layup and
made a short hook, helping the Heat recapture the
momentum. The closest the Pistons got thereafter was the final
Damon Jones scored nine points in a well-played first quarter
that ended with the Heat holding a 28-26 lead. Miami shot 65
percent (13-of-20) in the period while Detroit connected on 50
percent (11-of-22) of its shots.
"I just wanted to take advantage of some opportunities that I
thought I had watching the game tape from Game 4 and earlier
in the series," Damon Jones said.
O'Neal made a hook and had a dunk to trigger a 9-2 run to start
the second quarter, giving the Heat a 37-28 lead. In the
period, the Pistons had as many baskets (six) as turnovers.
Prince added 11 points for the Pistons, who shot 38.5 percent
(30-of-78) and held a 40-38 rebounding edge.