<
>

Carter's 27 and 10 goes to waste for Nets

MIAMI (AP) -- Mindful of Shaquille O'Neal's playoff history, the
New Jersey Nets wanted to limit his touches.

And while their plan kept O'Neal's numbers down, Dwyane Wade and
Damon Jones took advantage of all the extra open space.

Wade had 32 points and Jones made seven 3-pointers and scored 30
-- playoff career-highs for both -- as the Heat defeated New Jersey
116-98 Sunday in the opener of their first-round series.

Wade connected on 12 of 18 shots and had eight assists, while
Jones was 10-for-12 from the floor -- including 7-for-9 from 3-point
range -- as the Heat set franchise playoff highs in scoring and
field-goal percentage (.592).

"I had a conversation with D. Jones and D. Wade and told them
if I wasn't 100 percent, I'd need them to give a little extra,"
said O'Neal, still slowed by a bruised thigh. "They both stepped
up and shot the ball well. I didn't have the explosiveness I
usually do. I didn't have 'The Diesel' explosiveness. Today I had
'The Firecracker' explosiveness."

O'Neal graded himself "an F" health-wise. He had 17 points and
11 rebounds in 32 minutes, well off his 27.1-point career playoff
average and the 36.3-point pace he had against the Nets in the 2002
NBA finals.

"I don't think we'll see Shaq at his absolute best until
probably until late in this series or into the next series," Heat
coach Stan Van Gundy said.

Vince Carter had 27 points and 10 rebounds for New Jersey, which
won 15 of its final 19 games to get the East's No. 8 seed but is
now 0-4 against Miami this season.

"We knew they could score a lot of points if we didn't defend
the 3-point shot and just left them open," Carter said. "He
attracts a lot of attention. We just have to do a better job,
that's all, of trying to run them off the 3 a little bit."

Jason Kidd added 18 points for the Nets, who have won just one
playoff series -- a first-rounder against Indiana in 2002 -- after
dropping a Game 1.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Miami.

After Jones and Wade made consecutive jumpers to give Miami its
largest lead, 20 points, with 7:48 left, Carter's deep 3-pointer
with 6:37 left capped a 7-0 run that drew the Nets within 99-86.
But O'Neal scored the game's next three points, the sellout crowd
exhaled, and the outcome was sealed.

"It's playoff time. It's not the Dwyane show. It's not the Shaq
show," Wade said. "It's the Miami Heat's time."

Travis Best, Clifford Robinson and Nenad Krstic each had 11
points for New Jersey. Udonis Haslem had 11 points and 11 rebounds
for Miami.

New Jersey forward Richard Jefferson, who missed the final 49
games of the regular season with a ruptured ligament in his left
wrist, returned and had nine points on 3-for-7 shooting in 23
minutes.

"I feel fine, surprisingly," Jefferson said. "I didn't have
my lateral quickness. It's tough trying to guard an All-NBA player
like Dwyane Wade when you don't have that."

With Miami mired in an early 1-for-9 slump, New Jersey hit eight
of 10 shots and took an 18-11 lead when Kidd made a layup with 4:38
left in the opening quarter.

The Heat, however, quickly got back on track.

Wade hit two jumpers in the final 32.4 seconds of the quarter to
give Miami a 22-19 lead, and Alonzo Mourning -- playing against the
team he opened the season with -- had consecutive baskets, including
a two-handed slam of a miss by Wade, early in the second quarter to
fuel a 20-3 run that put Miami up 31-21.

The Nets missed 16 of 17 shots over an 11½-minute stretch of the
half and trailed by as many as 16 late in the second quarter before
going into halftime down 54-42.

Allowing Miami to put together one big run doomed the Nets in
each of their three regular-season losses to the Heat. In those
games, Miami used a 19-6 run in the first game, a 19-8 flurry in
the second and a 28-7 burst in the third to turn close games into
relatively one-sided affairs.

And once again, the Nets couldn't find a way to overcome the big
Miami burst.

New Jersey got within 10 points on four separate occasions in
the third quarter, yet never cut the Heat's margin into single
digits and trailed 87-73 entering the fourth.

"We played hard," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "We just
have to do a few things better."

Game notes
Krstic was taken for back X-rays after the game. ...
Miami's reserves were 7-for-10 from the floor for 15 points in the
first half; no Nets reserve had a field goal before Clifford
Robinson's jumper from the right corner with 7:39 left in the third
quarter. ... Heat G Keyon Dooling made the first playoff appearance
of his career after 277 regular-season games. ... Celebrities in
the crowd included rapper Jay-Z, Raiders wide receiver Randy Moss
and actor Jamie Foxx, who's scheduled to begin shooting his next
film, "Miami Vice," here in June.