AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (Ticker) -- Dwyane Wade
and the Miami
Heat are off to a healthy start in the Eastern Conference
Wade played through foul trouble to score 25 points as the
rested Heat posted a 91-86 victory over the Detroit Pistons in
the opener of the conference finals.
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scored 17 points and Shaquille O'Neal
14 for the
second-seeded Heat, who stole home-court advantage from the
Pistons by taking control of the contest late in the third
"This is going to be a dogfight, and we're happy to get the
first one," Heat coach Pat Riley
Wade was a major reason why the Heat quickly gained the upper
hand against the NBA's best team during the regular season as he
made 9-of-11 shots while playing just 27 minutes due to foul
In last season's conference finals against the Pistons, the Heat
squandered a 3-2 series lead. However, Wade missed Game 6 with a rib injury and O'Neal played the series with a thigh
But with week of rest after disposing of New Jersey in five
games in the conference semifinals, the Heat came out sharp,
scoring the game's first 11 points and never trailing in the
Things looked like they were unraveling when Wade went to the
bench with his fourth foul at the 7:14 mark of the third quarter
with the game tied at 54-54.
converted a driving a layup, Tayshaun Prince
made two free throws and Rasheed Wallace
drained a jumper to
give the Pistons their biggest lead, 60-55, with 4:18 left in
However, the Heat tightened their defense and used an 11-1 surge
to close the quarter with Wade on the bench to take the lead
for good. Detroit missed its final nine shots of the period.
"We looked tired throughout certain parts of the game," Prince
said. "We got good looks. Obviously, they didn't fall."
Veteran Gary Payton
, who scored 14 points, drilled a jumper and
Walker and James Posey
each hit 3-pointers in the Heat's burst
to close the period.
Another of the Heat's many veterans, Alonzo Mourning
baskets and a key block that provided a 75-65 advantage with
"We've been here before," Payton said. "We're at the end of our
careers, but we know what to do. I've been here for 16 years,
'Zo has been for 14. We know how to make plays."
Wade then helped put the game out of reach, hitting a jumper and
three free throws for an 80-67 cushion 4:44 to play.
"Games are called different," Wade said. "I'm just going to
continue to be aggressive, be a little smarter, but at the same
time continue to be aggressive."
In the first quarter, Wade also led a surge, making his first
six shots and scoring 13 points in the quarter that ended with
Miami holding a 33-25 lead. The Heat shot 75 percent (15-of-20)
in the period.
"He started 6-for-6, and he was obviously very fresh," Riley
said of Wade. "We usually go to Shaq early, but Dwyane knows
when to take over if he's feeling it."
Hamilton scored 22 points, Billups 19 and Prince 16 for the
Pistons, who struggled most of the way offensively as they shot
just 38 percent (31-of-82). Detroit was playing two days after
beating Cleveland in Game 7.
"Are we tired? Yeah, but everybody is at this point," Pistons
coach Flip Saunders
said. "We're not going to use that as an
excuse. We just couldn't sustain our runs. Our energy was not at
Detroit hosts Game 2 on Thursday.
"We just gotta come out and play hard, gotta come out and
execute and do what we do and not get caught up in playing their
style of game, whether it's Game 2, 3, 4, whatever,"
said Pistons center Ben Wallace
, who grabbed 14 rebounds. "If we
come out and play the way they want to play, then we don't have