"I don't know that a win against the Magic really means
anything going into the playoffs," Miami coach Stan Van Gundy
said. "But I was happy with what went on."
The Heat (59-23) enter the postseason on a three-game winning
streak, proving they've snapped out of the funk that developed
after they clinched the East's top seed on April 5. They lost four
straight after that.
Miami will open the playoffs against New Jersey on Sunday. The
Nets took the eighth and final postseason berth by beating Boston.
The Heat took all three games from New Jersey, winning by an
average of more than 21 points. But Van Gundy noted it has been
more than a month since they last played.
After that 25-point whipping on March 12, New Jersey won 15 of
"We've got a big challenge right there," Van Gundy said.
"They're a great defensive team with a great defensive coach. I
think the two best teams in the East over the last month and a half
have been Detroit and New Jersey."
The absence of O'Neal for a second straight game was expected.
He said his bruised right thigh was getting better, and dismissed
any notion that he might sit out Game 1 against the Nets.
But there was no warning Wade would be a bystander. He played 23
minutes the night before, in a win over Charlotte.
Wade apparently asked for the night off, understandable
considering he is among the league leaders in minutes played.
With no Miami starter seeing more than 24 minutes of action, the
reserves got a serious workout.
Keyon Dooling scored 19 points in 31 minutes, both season highs,
and Van Gundy let rookie forward Dorell Wright cut loose for 22
minutes. Miami's first-round pick, who had seen only five minutes
in two games, scored seven points.
Wright also gave his coach a scare, landing hard on his back
after being undercut on a dunk.
Christian Laettner added 14, 10 in the fourth quarter. His
jumper with 1:44 remaining capped a run of 10 unanswered Miami
points, and the Heat led 94-90.
After Dwight Howard's two free throws cut the lead to two,
Laettner hit another jumper -- this time with the shot clock running
out -- to restore the two-possession advantage. He sank two foul
shots with 11.1 seconds for the final margin.
"The other 10 guys on the team have to feel like 'We can do
it,' even if Shaq is hurt or Wade is in foul trouble or whatever,"
said Laettner, 5-of-7 from the floor. "Tonight's game helped in
that regard -- we got a nice win without either of them."
Howard became the first rookie in NBA history to start all 82
games after jumping directly from high school. He also is the ninth
rookie in the last 15 seasons to average a double-double.
"I'm just happy I made it through the season without any
injuries," said Howard, who averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds.
"I'm glad to finish the season on a good note."
The Magic (36-46) improved their record by 15 games from last
year, but ended the season with 19 losses in their final 24 games.
That slump cost Orlando a playoff berth, and cost coach Johnny
Davis his job.
"It's really hard to accept, with the number of talented
players that we have, falling short," said interim coach Chris
Jent, who finished with a 5-13 record.
Orlando center Kelvin Cato was not in uniform because of a
sore lower back. ... Jeff Turner, Orlando's radio color analyst and
a member of the Magic's inaugural squad of 1989-90, called his last
game. He is leaving the Magic for an executive position at a local
high school, and will coach its basketball team. ... Orlando's
season attendance was 597,942 -- a 1.5 percent increase from last