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Heat take 2-1 series lead in East finals

MIAMI (AP) -- The 12-point lead Miami held minutes earlier was
whittled to a single point, and Antonio McDyess rose for a dunk
that would have given the Detroit Pistons the lead and all the
momentum.

Dwyane Wade chose that moment to take over.

"Guys look at me and say, 'It's your time," Wade said.
"That's all you need."

He blocked McDyess' dunk try, then had a three-point play 8
seconds later to end a huge Detroit run. The Heat went on to beat
the Pistons 98-83 on Saturday night in Game 3 of the Eastern
Conference finals.

"Play of the game," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said.

Heck, it might have been the biggest play of Miami's season.

Wade scored 35 points, O'Neal added 27 points and 12 rebounds,
and they combined to shoot 24-for-32 from the floor for the Heat,
who find themselves in the same situation they were in a year ago --
up 2-1 over the Pistons in the East finals, two wins from the
franchise's first trip to the NBA Finals.

"We took it upon ourselves, once again, to be the leaders of
the team and help this team get a win," Wade said.

The Pistons thwarted those plans last year, rallying to win in
seven games. If they have visions on doing that again, they'll have
to find a way to slow Wade and Shaquille O'Neal -- because Miami's
superstar duo scored nearly at will in Game 3.

"That's why they're here," Heat coach Pat Riley said.

Chauncey Billups scored 11 of his 31 points in the fourth
quarter for Detroit. Richard Hamilton added 20 points before
fouling out and Rasheed Wallace had 11, but Tayshaun Prince -- who
averaged 20 points in the first two games of the series -- had only
three.

The Pistons shot only 42 percent from the floor, while Miami
shot 58 percent. Plus, the Heat held huge edges in rebounding
(40-27) and points in the paint (50-16).

"What it's come down every game is whoever is most aggressive
from start to finish has come away with a victory," Billups said.
"That's one thing that we've got to keep in mind."

Of the last 32 series that were tied at a game apiece, Game 3
winners have prevailed 24 times.

But Detroit has recovered from 2-1 deficits three times since
2003 -- including last year, a result that neither the Heat nor the
Pistons have forgotten. Game 4 is Monday night in Miami, before the
series returns to suburban Detroit on Wednesday night.

"Any time you're in a series, the team that wins the last game
has momentum," Saunders said. "We have to find a way to take that
momentum back."

Miami was up 12 entering the fourth, but nearly gave it all away
in the first 4 minutes of the period.

Detroit opened with an 11-0 run, McDyess had a layup and a free
throw, Rasheed Wallace hit a jumper and -- after O'Neal and Wade
both missed a pair of free throws 35 seconds apart -- Billups hit
back-to-back 3-pointers, getting the Pistons within 74-73 with 7:44
left.

"All for naught," Billups said.

O'Neal said such a run would have doomed the Heat earlier this
season. Not anymore, especially not now, six wins away from an NBA
title.

"Now we can sit back, curse each other out a little, and turn
it on," O'Neal said.

After Wade's block and three-point play, O'Neal spun away from
Ben Wallace for a jump hook 25 seconds later, pushing the lead back
to six. With his team trailing by eight, Saunders went to the
Hack-a-Shaq with 4:28 left, and it worked.

Sort of, anyway.

O'Neal missed both tries after being intentionally fouled,
keeping Detroit within eight -- but the Heat center got his own
rebound, got fouled again, and hit each shot that time to put Miami
up 85-75.

"That's just a way of telling me you can't stop me," O'Neal
said. "So, thank you. I appreciate it."

In turn, the Heat went to the Hack-a-Ben, putting Ben Wallace on
the line with 3:32 left. He was 1-for-6 at the time, then missed
two more, and Wade got the rebound. Antoine Walker hit Udonis
Haslem for a dunk on the ensuing possession, giving Miami an 89-79
edge. And that essentially sealed the outcome.

"It's back to the drawing board," McDyess said. "We need to
look and see what we do wrong."

Wade started 7-for-8 from the field for 15 points, including 13
consecutive Heat points in one stretch to give Miami a 30-24 lead.
He didn't score again in the half, and the Heat still stretched the
cushion to 49-38 by intermission. Wade set O'Neal up for a dunk on
the Heat's final play of the half.

Detroit's starting backcourt of Billups and Hamilton combined
for 21 points in the first quarter, but only five in the second
when the Pistons were outscored 23-14. The Pistons further hurt
themselves by going 3-for-10 from the foul line in the second
quarter, when Miami wasn't awarded a single free throw.

The Pistons shot 17 of the game's first 20 free throws, with
Miami going more than 17 minutes without a trip to the line. Wade
hit a pair with 7:42 left in the third to end the drought, O'Neal
hit two about a minute later, and the Heat stars had 18 points in
the period to help Miami carry a 74-62 lead into the fourth.

And although that cushion all but vanished, the Heat survived.

"We're the first team in the playoffs to 10 wins," Riley said.
"We need six more."

Game notes
Miami improved to 18-4 in its last 22 home playoff games.
... Prince hit a shot from the left side with 8:23 remaining in the
half; problem was, he was out of bounds and trying to throw a lob
to McDyess on an out-of-bounds play. ... Celebs in the sellout
crowd included hip-hop mogul Diddy, singers Janet Jackson and
Usher, plus Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.