Wade more than filled the void of O'Neal's scoreless first half
by scoring a postseason career-high 34 points and setting up the
big guy for most of his 17 second-half points as the Heat completed
a first-round sweep of the New Jersey Nets with a 110-97 win
"He's been a superstar, even last year," O'Neal said of Wade.
"It's just now you guys are recognizing it."
Wade put up spectacular numbers with O'Neal hobbled, averaging
26.3 points, 8.8 assists, 6.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals, a block and
42.5 minutes. He shot 50 percent from the field, hitting 37 of 74
Only six other players have averaged 25 points, eight assists
and six rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the floor in a
playoff series. They are all in the Hall of Fame -- Oscar Robertson,
Bob Cousy, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael
Jordan, the last to do it in the 1991 NBA Finals.
Wade's big game on Sunday in Miami's seventh straight win over
Jason Kidd and company guaranteed that O'Neal will have at least a
full week to rest his legs before the second round of the Eastern
Conference playoffs resumes. The layoff could last nine days,
depending on the other series.
"I'm a little more confident," Wade said in comparing himself
to his rookie season last year. "I know my teammates depend on me
a lot more. I know what to do more now than last year."
The Heat cruised past the Nets because they hit shots and they
also got contributions up and down their lineup from the likes of
Eddie Jones, Damon Jones, Udonis Haslem, Keyon Dooling and Alonzo
Mourning, the former Net who was booed unmercifully the past two
"Everybody stepped up, some nights guys you didn't expect to
play well, played well," said O'Neal, who averaged 18.3 points,
8.8 rebounds and 33 minutes. "The whole team played well. We had
six or eight guys play well."
And the Heat will be a lot better when O'Neal is healthy.
Eddie Jones added 21 points on Sunday and O'Neal shot 7-for-9 in
the second half after missing all five in the first half. Miami
shot 54.9 percent from the field with Wade leading the way, making
New Jersey, which qualified for the playoffs on the final day of
the regular season by winning for the 15th time in 19 games, was
eliminated early because it shot poorly the entire series. Game 4
was another lowlight, a 39.5 percent effort that included a woeful
6-of-22 effort by Vince Carter.
"It says a lot when you beat a team four straight times," Nets
coach Lawrence Frank said. "Normally, there is a letdown. Those
guys kept on coming. Our guys made a big run. Once we got it up
three, they took it to another level."
After making the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, the Nets have been
eliminated in the second round last year and, now, the first round.
"It wasn't so long ago we set the bar in the Eastern
Conference," Frank said. "Tables turn quickly."
Trailing 60-57 midway through the third quarter, Miami took
control with a 21-10 spurt that was all Wade. He hit a jumper to
get the Heat within two points, he fed O'Neal for a layup and then
found Damon Jones for an open 3-pointer and a 64-60 lead.
Eddie Jones took over late in the quarter, hitting two
3-pointers and a jumper for a 78-70 lead after three quarters.
New Jersey made a run early in the fourth quarter, drawing
within 84-81 on a 3-pointer by Kidd.
However, Dooling, who had 11 points, hit a 3-pointer and Wade
embarrassed Carter on an out-of-bounds play, bouncing the ball off
his rear end and hitting a layup for an 89-81 edge.
"I kept thinking: 'Should I do it? Should I do it?' " Wade
said. "There were three guys with their backs to me."
Carter paid the price.
New Jersey never got close again and the only cheers from the
home crowd came when Frank emptied the bench in the closing
Wade appeared to be the only member of the Heat who wanted to
end the series right away. He hit 6-of-8 shots and scored 14 points
in the first quarter in helping Miami take a 27-16 lead.
O'Neal, who started the series with a sore right thigh and hurt
his left in Miami's double overtime win in Game 3, had a horrible
half. He was 0-for-5 from the field with three turnovers. The only
thing he hit was a couple of Nets' jaws in picking up two offensive
fouls, and three overall.
Kidd, Carter and Jefferson combined for 23 second-quarter points
in helping New Jersey get within 48-47 at the half.
After selling out only two regular season games, the Nets
had their second straight sellout (20,174) on Sunday. ... Jefferson
returned to the starting lineup in place of Brian Scalabrine. ...
Miami was called for two technicals for illegal defenses.
...Dooling hit 15-of-21 shots in the series, which was Miami's
first sweep in a seven-game series.