EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., May 14 (Ticker) --
The forward tandem of
and Udonis Haslem
has the Miami Heat looking
forward to their next postseason challenge.
Walker and Haslem scored 20 points apiece to help the Heat hold
off the cold-shooting New Jersey Nets, 102-92, and open a
commanding 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal
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"We had to respond today to what I thought was going to be their
strongest effort," Heat coach Pat Riley
said. "I think over
the course of the game we matched their effort and then at the
end made the plays that we had to make."
scored 31 points and Shaquille O'Neal
added 16 for the second-seeded Heat,
who won both contests at Continental Airlines Arena this weekend
and have the luxury of two more home games.
Miami, 7-1 vs. New Jersey in the last two
postseasons, could advance to the conference finals for the second straight year as soon as Tuesday with a Game 5 victory.
It was a disappointing loss for the third-seeded Nets, who were
done in by 43 percent (36-of-84) shooting, including 4-of-20
from behind the arc.
They had won three of four from the Heat during
the season and stole the opener on the road but have dropped
three in a row, wasting a triple-double by Jason Kidd
"Dwyane is going to get his and so is Shaq, and we understand
that," Nets star Vince Carter
said. "You just can't let
the other guys have big nights if you expect to win and that's
what happened tonight.
"Udonis was big with his offensive rebounding and with some of
his clutch shots in the paint. Antoine was big on the wing as
well, and I just think that they were the X-factors for them
throughout the whole game."
With his best game of the series, Walker helped the Heat build
and keep the lead as he made 7-of-11 shots, including 5-of-8
from beyond the arc. He sparked a big third-quarter run that gave
Miami a double-digit lead.
"I was just trying to get to the right spots," Walker said. "Dwyane gets into the lane and draws so much attention. We are
just starting to get into a rhythm offensively. We simplify
things. It's no secret that we go to Dwyane and Shaq most and
everybody else tries to make shots when become available."
Haslem had perhaps the best postseason game of his career,
making 8-of-11 shots and pulling down 11 rebounds. He spelled
Walker early in the fourth quarter and made crucial baskets and
"It was certainly one of my best," Haslem said. "They were switching up
defenses, digging in on the big fella (O'Neal) and doubling on
Dwyane. I was just moving to the open spot and I was fortunate
enough to knock down shots."
The Heat were clinging to a 78-77 lead when Haslem returned and
promptly scored on a follow shot with 7:38 to go, ending a
drought of nearly 3 1/2 minutes.
A hook shot by Nenad Krstic
, who came alive with 20
points and 14 rebounds, pulled the Nets within 90-87 with 3:02
Wade nearly lost the ball out of bounds, but it was
saved by Nets forward Jason Collins
right to Haslem, who beat
the shot clock with a 14-footer.
"It was a tough situation for those guys," Haslem said. "They
put out all the hustle but the ball came to me. I just turned
around and shot it."
Haslem made two free throws to keep the lead at 94-90 with 1:32
left and rebounded a miss by Krstic at the other end. Veteran
provided the dagger with a 3-pointer with 56 seconds
left - his first and only basket of the game.
"I though Udonis came in and controlled the boards for us,"
Riley said. "Anytime we needed a big defensive board, he was
The Heat shot 53 percent (37-of-70) to overcome New Jersey's 48-39 advantage on the glass.
Carter scored 26 points on 12-of-28 shooting and Richard Jefferson
added 17. Kidd chimed in with 17
points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists for his ninth career playoff
"This was a big game and we thought we could even the series,"
Kidd said. "In the beginning, I thought the tempo was in our
favor, but we let it get away from us. We have to find a way to
slow these guys down."
The game took on a familiar pattern as the Heat opened leads and
the Nets rallied but never moved in front. Miami never trailed
after using a 9-0 burst to build a 23-18 advantage in the first
New Jersey had a 6-0 run to open the second half and forge a
54-54 tie before Walker scored eight points and Haslem six in a
16-5 surge that rebuilt Miami's lead to 70-59 with 4:03 left in
the third quarter.
Carter began to shake off a 2-of-11 start and drained a pair of
shots in a 14-6 spurt that cut the deficit to 76-73 entering the