MIAMI, May 29 (Ticker) -- Dwyane Wade
has made things real rough for
the Detroit Pistons.
Wade authored up another huge performance and the Miami Heat
again made all the big plays in the fourth quarter en route to
an 89-78 victory over the Pistons and a commanding 3-1 lead in
the Eastern Conference Finals.
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Proving nearly unstoppable and making the Pistons' vaunted
defense look average the entire series, Wade scored 31 points as
the second-seeded Heat moved within a win of reaching the NBA
Finals for the first time in franchise history.
"I'm just a kid in a candy store right now, trying to have fun,"
Wade said. "I'm getting a chance to show my ability and my
Wade took five shots in the first half and failed to attempt one
in the third quarter when the Pistons switched to a 3-2 zone
defense. But the superstar again was aggressive in the fourth
quarter as he scored 12 points, including a pair of
highlight-reel plays along the way.
"They were taking me out of the game by double-teaming me so I
was getting off the ball," Wade said. "Fourth quarter, I wasn't
going to let that happen. I was going to be more aggressive and
take the ball to the basket."
Less than a minute into the final session, Wade drove to the
basket and converted an acrobatic layup while drawing a foul on
. Wade also drilled an off-balance shot from the
left sideline with the shot clock winding down for a 69-63 lead
with 9:26 remaining.
Miami coach Pat Riley
made sure Wade had an opportunity to once
again be a factor down the stretch.
"We need every ounce of energy he brings out there," Riley said.
"I could not give him a rest in the second half. He's right
there; he's very special."
Wade made 8-of-11 shots and went 15-of-19 from the free-throw
line. He is averaging 30.8 points and shooting a blistering 70
percent (41-of-59) in the series.
"Wade was phenomenal," Detroit coach Flip Saunders
didn't have a lot of open looks. When he's got contested shots
and he's going up, you say that's a pretty good contest but he's
With Wade leading the way, the Heat took control of the game in
the fourth quarter from the top-seeded Pistons, who had battled
back to erase a 14-point, first-half deficit.
"I thought the last two minutes of the first half was a downer
for us," Riley said. "It gave them some life. They
went to the zone in the third quarter and we tried to attack
the zone very methodically instead of just getting the ball up
the court quickly and trying to find seams and gaps and trying
to drive the ball."
, who enjoyed his best game of the series, sank an
open jumper from the free-throw line with 4:16 remaining to cap
a 16-6 run and give the Heat an 81-69 cushion. The power
forward scored 16 points in 33 minutes.
"Nobody (in the locker room) got down on me," said Haslem, who
made just 1-of-12 shots in the first two games of the series.
"They got behind me 100 percent and told me to keep fighting.
I'm just trying to be more aggressive and get in a rhythm."
added 21 points and nine rebounds for Miami,
which will try to close out the series in Game 5 at Detroit
Last season, the Heat squandered a 3-2 series lead against the
Pistons in the conference finals with Wade and O'Neal both
battling injuries. However, the superstar duo now is healthy.
"Now it's the moving on factor," said Riley, whose team's are
11-0 when holding a 3-1 series lead. "If they want it,
they will get to the Finals, and that will be a first for this
franchise. So I think they're hungry. We have a great respect
for the Pistons but I think our hearts are into moving on."
"We're on the right page but we still have a lot of basketball
left," Wade said. "I'm proud of my guys, but I know they
understand that we've still got to finish this series up."
Seeking their third straight appearance in the NBA Finals, the
Pistons have played well with their backs against the wall as
they continue to live by their motto of, "If it ain't rough, it
In the conference semifinals, Detroit battled back from a 3-2
series deficit to defeat Cleveland. The Pistons have rallied
from 2-1 or 3-2 series deficits five times in the past four
"We've got a lot of fight in us," Pistons guard Chauncey Billups
said. "We've been down 3-1 before but not against a team as
great as Miami. But we're going home, we're a great home team
and we have to win one game. If we don't focus on that one
game, the season will be over."
But beating the Heat may be an entirely different story since
Wade and O'Neal seem to have every answer.
"We wanted to take a game in Miami but we couldn't get it done,"
Saunders said. "Every game becomes like an NCAA Tournament game
now. But strange things happen. One play can change a game;
one play can change a series."
The All-Star duo combined to attempt 34 free throws in this one,
12 more than the entire Pistons team. Miami went 28-of-47 at
the line, compared to 12-of-22 for Detroit.
"Man, I thought that hurt us a lot," Billups said. "We came
out, closed the gap, got the game where it was kind of nip and
tuck. I thought it made a difference, but it is what it is."
The Heat shot 55 percent (28-of-51), the third time in the
series they were above 54 percent.
fouled out and Ben Wallace
and Billups each
battled foul trouble the entire night for the Pistons, who shot
39 percent (30-of-77) in another inconsistent offensive effort.
scored 15 points, Billups 14 and Rasheed Wallace
12 for Detroit, which fell to just 2-5 on the road in the
"It's tough. We put ourselves in this situation," said Prince,
who scored just four points after the first quarter. "But like
I said, it's not over."
The Pistons got little production from Richard Hamilton
scored all 11 of his points in the first half. He missed all
six of his shots in the second half and finished 4-of-15
A 3-pointer by James Posey
with 2:11 remaining in the first half
gave the Heat their largest leat at 42-28. Moments before
Posey's shot, the 7-1, 325-pound O'Neal had a block and went
nearly the entire length of the court for a layup.
"I have that in my game," said a smiling O'Neal. "I used to do
that when I was a youngster. I'm not a spring chicken anymore,
but it was an opportunity for me to get the crowd going. I just
did what I do best."
The Pistons did show some signs of life and closed the first
half on a 10-2 surge to pull within 44-38 at the break.
Limited to four points between them in the first half, Rasheed
Wallace and Billups combined for 17 of Detroit's first 19 in the
Rasheed Wallace's 3-pointer at the 5:05 mark capped an 11-2 run
and gave the Pistons a 57-53 lead. The Heat battled back to
reclaim a 62-60 lead entering the final period.