EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Their bloodied superstar was in the
locker room and the game was threatening to get away from the Heat.
Oh, but there was one piece of good news for Miami.
"I knew I was coming right back," Dwyane Wade said.
Wade scored 30 points, half in the final 4½ minutes, and added
10 assists and seven rebounds to lead the Miami Heat over the New
Jersey Nets 103-92 on Friday night in Game 3 of the best-of-seven
Knocked out of the game briefly by an inadvertent elbow during a
stretch when New Jersey was threatening to take control, Wade
helped the Heat come back to win the first competitive game in the
series and take a 2-1 lead.
"Very, very unique player," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "He
makes it look real easy and I know how hard it has to be. He's just
a blessing for us and this franchise."
Shaquille O'Neal added 19 points and nine rebounds, and Antoine
Walker scored 16 points for the Heat.
Game 4 of the series is Sunday in New Jersey.
"Now that we've got this one, we don't want to play around with
these guys. We want to get the one on Sunday," O'Neal said.
Vince Carter scored 43 points, but had a few costly turnovers in
the fourth quarter that helped the Heat finally shake the Nets.
"We were just making silly mistakes on both ends," he said.
Richard Jefferson added 17 points -- none in the final period.
"I played terrible in the second half," he said. "I couldn't
get anything going. My teammates and coaches expect better from
Jason Kidd was also scoreless in the fourth, finishing with 10
points, 12 assists and eight rebounds.
New Jersey was without key reserve Clifford Robinson, who was
suspended five games by the NBA earlier Friday for violating the
anti-drug policy. The news came as a tough surprise to the Nets,
who learned of the penalty at around noon -- after Robinson had
already taken part in the morning shootaround.
The teams traded easy victories in Miami, but this one was close
throughout. Neither team led by more than nine points until the
Carter gave New Jersey its last lead at 81-80 with just over 4½
minutes left, but Wade answered with a three-point play to put
Miami ahead for good at with 4:22 to play. Gary Payton followed
with a steal and layup before Wade made four straight free throws
to give the Heat an 89-81 lead with 3:13 remaining.
New Jersey couldn't get closer than six points again. Wade was
6-of-6 from the line and added another basket in the final minute.
"We still had the opportunity," Nets coach Lawrence Frank
said, "up one with I think 4:30 and change when Carter made the
layup. And we just didn't help ourselves."
The Heat led 56-49 early in the third quarter after O'Neal's
alley-oop dunk, but Nenad Krstic made a basket and Carter scored
four straight points to bring the Nets within one.
Carter was trying to drive around Wade on the next possession
when his elbow caught Wade in the face. Wade remained down with his
hand covering his face while play continued on both ends of the
floor, and he was taken to the locker room after Krstic's basket
gave New Jersey a 57-56 lead.
After Wade left the floor, Jason Collins made two free throws,
then Carter nailed a jumper and a 3-pointer to cap the 15-0 burst --
with nine points coming after Wade was elbowed -- and give the Nets
a 64-56 lead with 5:52 remaining in the period.
"I felt like I was on the ground for five minutes, I swear,"
Wade said. "Once I went to the locker room and they said I didn't
need any stitches, I was ready to come back out."
Wade returned seconds later and helped the Heat fight back to
tie it at 72 heading into the final quarter after Payton's layup
with 30 seconds to go.
"He's our guy," Heat forward James Posey said of Wade. "He
does so much for us as far as creating for other players. When he
came back, he was going to lead the way."
The game was tied after the first quarter, a welcome change
after the first two games were basically over after 12 minutes. The
Nets led 38-21 after one in their series-opening victory, and the
Heat were ahead 41-19 in Game 2.
On Friday, Carter and Jefferson combined to hit nine of their
first 10 shots and both scored 10 points in the first quarter,
which ended in a 27-all tie.
O'Neal was limited to just four minutes in the second quarter
after picking up his third foul, but Miami was still able to push
its lead to 54-45 late in the period on Walker's 3-pointer with
1:20 left. Carter closed the first-half scoring with consecutive
dunks -- the first a powerful slam over Alonzo Mourning -- to bring
the Nets within 54-49 at the break.
"We had an opportunity to defend our home court and weren't
able to get the job done tonight," Collins said. "It's obviously
very important that we come out on Sunday and get the win."
Walker was called for a technical foul after he seemed to
stay too long near the Nets bench talking to coach Lawrence Frank
after he fouled Jefferson.. ... Mourning was loudly booed when he
entered the game late in the first quarter. He played 30 games over
parts of two seasons with the Nets and was vocal in his unhappiness
with the direction of the team before he was shipped to Toronto in
the deal for Carter.in December 2004. ... Patriots QB Tom Brady
attended the game and was also booed when he was shown on the