Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 2)

Series starts 1/11

Game 1: Tuesday, January 11th
Game 2: Friday, March 25th

Suns 115

(51-17, 28-8 away)

Heat 125

(53-17, 31-5 home)

8:00 PM ET, March 25, 2005

AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL

1 2 3 4 T
PHX 21 33 28 33115
MIA 34 26 34 31125

Top Performers

PHX: S. Nash 19 Pts, 5 Reb, 14 Ast

Mia: D. Wade 35 Pts, 7 Reb, 9 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

Shaq, Flash combine for 60 points

MIAMI (AP) -- A memorable shot, a division championship and the best record in the NBA. Things simply couldn't have gone better for Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat on Friday night.

Wade had 35 points -- including a 65-foot heave to end the third quarter -- and the Heat set a season high for points, clinched the Southeast Division title and moved past Phoenix for the NBA's best record with a 125-115 win over the Suns.

Wade had his usual array of spectacular aerials around the basket -- but how he capped the third quarter was the big highlight. He blocked Amare Stoudemire's shot with about 3 seconds left, collected the rebound, let it fly -- and the ball went through with a soft swish, putting the Heat up 94-82 entering the final quarter.

"It felt real good leaving my hands," Wade said. "Going all net kind of surprised me a little bit."

He didn't score again. He didn't have to.

"It's always good to win something," said Wade, who missed practice Thursday with a thigh bruise but still managed nine assists and seven rebounds against the Suns. "Last year, we felt like we didn't win anything. To win a division title with a lot of games left, it's a great feeling."

Shaquille O'Neal had 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and Eddie Jones added 23 points and eight rebounds for Miami (53-17), which won its 16th straight game at home and claimed its first division title since the 1999-00 season.

Quentin Richardson led Phoenix (51-17) with 26 points, Amare Stoudemire added 25 and Steve Nash had 19 points and 14 assists. Phoenix lost for the first time in its last 10 road games.

"We didn't get enough stops," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I thought we scored enough probably to be in the game but we didn't stop them. They hit shots and Wade went off.

There was no celebration for the Heat afterward; Eddie Jones didn't even know the game sealed the division. Clearly, Miami has its sights on bigger goals.

"None of those titles mean anything to me unless it's the big one. ... I want to end the date correctly. I want to end the date with a smash," O'Neal said.

Miami led by as many as 19 in the final quarter, before Richardson scored 10 points in a 15-2 Phoenix run that drew the Suns to 117-111 with 2:52 left. But O'Neal slammed home a miss by Wade with 2:25 left, and the Heat hung on in the battle of conference leaders.

"You'd be lying if you said it was just one of 82 games," Richardson said. "Everyone knows there's pride on the line. We want to show that we can play with them, especially late in the season like this."

Miami opened on a 22-4 run, as Phoenix -- the second-best shooting team in the NBA, behind only Miami -- missed 10 of its first 11 shots. It was a total turnaround from the teams' first meeting, where Phoenix set the tone with a 40-point first quarter and cruised to a 122-107 win on Jan. 11.

"I thought we started the game in the first quarter and probably played the best quarter of defense we played all year," said Heat coach Stan Van Gundy, whose team led 34-21 after one period. "And we made that lead stand up with our offense the rest of the way."

Steve Smith's 3-pointer with 5:55 left in the half put the Heat up 46-34, before Phoenix took advantage of Miami fouls and sliced deeply into the lead by halftime. The Heat were called for the first seven fouls of the second quarter -- not including a technical on Damon Jones for arguing one of those calls.

And Phoenix, which got 12 points from reserve guard Leandro Barbosa in an eight-minute span of the quarter, went on a 15-4 run late in the half to get to 50-49 with 2:46 left. But Wade hit Miami's last four shots of the half, and the Heat took a 60-54 lead into intermission.

Phoenix hit three free throws -- two by Stoudemire and one by Nash after Udonis Haslem's arguing drew him a technical -- with 7:12 left in the third to tie it at 71. But Eddie Jones hit a 3-pointer on Miami's next trip to start a 16-7 Heat run.

"Starting out so slow, it took a lot out of us to get back into the game," Nash said. "Their 3-point shooting and Dwyane Wade, it was just too much for us. It was a playoff-type game. We know they're probably one of two teams that could come out of the East, so if we make it to the Finals we could be playing them."

Game notes

Damon Jones had no shots in 25 minutes. ... Miami has held a double-digit lead in 14 consecutive games. ... Phoenix has scored 100 points in 20 of its last 21 games. ... Wade scored 30 or more points for the 12th time this season. ... With the Nasdaq-100 Open going on in nearby Key Biscayne, plenty of tennis greats -- including Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Boris Becker and Maria Sharapova -- were in the crowd, as were football stars Willis McGahee and Warren Sapp, plus hip-hop mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 115 125
FGM-FGA 40-81 (.494) 49-89 (.551)
3PM-3PA 10-23 (.435) 9-14 (.643)
FTM-FTA 25-30 (.833) 18-21 (.857)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 8-34 12-41
Assists 24 28
Turnovers 16 13
Steals 7 10
Blocks 6 4
Fast Break Points 35 10
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 19 (0/0) 26 (2/0)
Largest Lead 0 19

Top Performers

Steve Nash Nash
Points: 19
Reb: 5
Ast: 14
Stl: 0
Blk: 0
Dwyane Wade Wade
Points: 35
Reb: 7
Ast: 9
Stl: 2
Blk: 1