MIAMI, May 16 (Ticker) -- Dwyane Wade
wasn't going to let Vince Carter
shorten his postseason break.
Wade intercepted a pass for Carter as time expired, allowing the
Miami Heat to hold on for a 106-105 victory over the New Jersey
Nets and reach the Eastern Conference finals for the second
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scored 23 points and Wade overcame a slow start
to add 21 for the second-seeded Heat, who eliminated the
third-seeded Nets in five games and await the winner of the
Walker and backup center Alonzo Mourning
picked up the slack for
Wade and Shaquille O'Neal
, who again was limited by foul
trouble and scored 17 points.
A year ago, Miami lost in seven games to Detroit as Wade tried
to play through a painful rib injury. Wade has taken some
terrific tumbles in this year's playoffs but the superstar guard
is relatively healthy and will have at least a week off before
the next series.
"We get to rest a little but then bring it on," Wade said.
"It's a nice feeling knowing you're the first team (in the
conference finals) and can watch everyone else try to get in."
After erasing a double-digit first-half deficit, the Heat never
trailed in the fourth quarter, taking the lead for good at 98-96
on a breakaway dunk by Wade with 4:37 to play. He made 6-of-10
shots in the second half after a 1-of-9 start.
A 3-pointer by Walker extended the lead to 105-99 with 1:56
remaining before the Nets made a final charge behind Carter, who
scored 33 points. He had a pair of drives around O'Neal's only
made free throw in seven tries, then added an inside bucket to
cut the deficit to 106-105 with 29 seconds to play.
"We attacked the basket and were aggressive, but a loss is a
loss. We're going home," Carter said.
After the Nets double-teamed Wade and forced a timeout, Carter
poked the ball away from Gary Payton
, whose rushed shot was
rebounded by Richard Jefferson
with 1.4 seconds to play.
"I liked when (Wade) came into the huddle and said, 'Let me
guard Vince Carter,'" Payton said. "That is the kind of stuff I
am talking about. He understands that and he took the
responsibility to do it."
Following the timeout, the Nets tried to inbound to Carter, who
has blistered the Heat this season. But Carter stumbled a bit
over Heat forward Udonis Haslem
's foot as he came to the ball,
which gave Wade the opportunity to steal the pass and run out
"I had the catch-up speed to get my hand on the ball once it was
loose," Wade said. "That was all she wrote."
"That's a poor job (of setting a play) on my part," Nets coach
said. "We have to get a shot off in that
situation. It's very disappointing."
scored 12 points, Mourning added 11 and Payton 10
for the Heat, who shot 56 percent (42-of-75) to overcome
15-of-29 foul shooting.
"It was a harrowing finish," Miami coach Pat Riley
said. "It was
great that we could finish it and close them out."
Jefferson also scored 33 points, Jason Kidd
added 20 and Lamond Murray
14 for the Nets, who shot 54 percent (40-of-74). New
Jersey lost the last four games after winning Game 1in Miami.
"The playoffs are a game of inches. A few plays here and there
and it could have been different," Frank said.
Behind Carter, the Nets jumped to a 9-2 lead, extended to 33-24
after one period and to 38-27 on a jumper by Kidd with 10:15
left in the second quarter.
"I thought we gave it a tremendous effort out there," Frank
said. "But their stars were their stars and their supporting
cast played a huge role in getting it done."
A surge by the Heat seemed to stall when O'Neal took a seat with
his third foul at the 7:18 mark. But Miami kept moving behind
Mourning and Walker, who combined for 17 points the rest of the
half to forge a 54-54 tie.
"You want to relieve the pressure on Shaq and Wade and do what
it takes," Walker said. "I just wanted to be aggressive and
take my shots when they came. It's all about stepping up and
playing our roles."
"We had to fight fire with fire," Mourning said. "Somehow we
just dug a little bit deeper in order to pull out the win."
O'Neal picked up his fourth foul less than four minutes into the
third quarter, but the Heat never trailed again after a dunk by
Mourning and a 3-pointer by Walker opened an 80-75 margin with
"They trapped Dwyane (Wade) and it gave me a good open look,"
Walker said. "All I had to do was knock it down."
The Heat overcame the largest deficit (12 points) in their postseason
history. It was the biggest comeback since the team rallied
from 11 points down against New Orleans on April 30, 2004.