Heat grab 3-1 lead, Clippers square series at 2-2
By Paul Levine May 15, 2006, 8:31 GMT
The Heat\'s Dwyane Wade (Center R) and the Nets\' Nenad Krstic (Center L) collide in the air as, from left, the Nets\' Jason Collins, Jason Kidd, Lamond Murray, Vince Carter, and the Heat\'s Udonis Haslem watch the ball during the Miami Heat\'s 102- 92 victory over the New Jersey Nets in game four of the round two playoffs at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sunday 14 May 2006. EPA/JUSTIN LANE
Los Angeles - Dwyane Wade has been carrying the Miami Heat in the playoffs, but the load got lighter as Antoine Walker and Udonis Haslem pitched in Sunday.
Walker and Haslem scored 20 points apiece to help the Heat hold off the New Jersey Nets 102-92 in game four to take a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semi-final series.
'It feels good that those guys know we really need them to be as good as we're going to be,' said Wade, who had 31 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.
'Me and Shaq draw a lot of attention, and those guys stepped up tonight and played big. When they do that, we're a pretty good team.'
Walker knows the Heat won't go deep into the playoffs unless the rest of the team contributes.
'We know in order to beat anybody in the playoffs, we're going to need three of four guys in double figures,' Walker said. 'So, tonight it was me and Udonis stepping up, making shots when had to.'
O'Neal added 16 points for Miami, which can wrap up the best-of- seven series Tuesday night at home, after winning both weekend contests on New Jersey's home floor.
High-flying Vince Carter led New Jersey with 26 points and Nenad Kristic had 20 points with 14 rebounds.
Jason Kidd collected his ninth career playoff triple-double, finishing with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, while Richard Jefferson added 17 points.
The Nets grabbed the opener in Miami, but they have dropped the last three games and face elimination. The odds are against New Jersey, because only eight NBA teams have ever rallied to win after falling behind 3-1.
'Our backs are against the wall,' Kidd said.
The Heat was clinging to a 90-87 lead when Wade nearly lost the ball out of bounds, but it was saved by Nets' centre Jason Collins right to Haslem, who buried a 15-footer.
Jefferson hit a three-pointer, trimming the deficit to 92-90, but the Heat went on a decisive 8-0 run. Haslem made two free throws to keep the lead at 94-90 with 1:32 left.
After Kristic missed a corner jumper, Haslem grabbed the rebound. He found Wade, who sent a crosscourt pass to Gary Payton.
The veteran guard fired in a wide-open three-pointer from the left corner - his only basket of the game - with 56 seconds left to ice the victory.
'I always tell Gary to be ready because I never know when I'm going to pass,' Wade said. 'I was on the opposite side of the court, and he knocked it down. It was a dagger.'
Elsewhere: LA Clippers 114, Phoenix Suns 107: Elton Brand collected 30 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, while Sam Cassell had 28 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists - and each knocked down big shots down the stretch - helping the Clippers square their Western Conference semifinals series at 2-2.
'We didn't want to go down 3-1, it's not undo-able because they (Suns) just finished doing it,' Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. 'Now it's down to a three-game series and we have to win one in Phoenix.'
Phoenix hosts Game Five Tuesday night.
Los Angeles led 106-93 following consecutive 3-pointers by Vladimir Radmanovic and Cassell with 5:54 remaining but the Suns nearly erased it. Brazilian speedster Leandro Barbosa scored the final five points in a 12-0 run to draw the visitors within one with 1:12 left.
The Clippers responded, though. Brand hit an 18-footer with 56 seconds left. After Tim Thomas missed a potential-game tying 3-pointer at the other end, Cassell nailed the game-clinching 3-pointer from the left wing to open a 111-105 lead with 27 seconds remaining that sent the Staples Center crowd into a pandemonium.
'Sam had a great game and he hit the big shot in front of our bench,' Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. 'That was ridiculous. That that was a great shot.'
Corey Maggette had 18 points and 15 rebounds for the bigger Clippers, who dominated the boards, 55-37, even though centre Chris Kaman sat out with sore right shoulder.
Raja Bell erupted for a playoff career-high 33 points for Phoenix, which hit 40-of-88 shots, including just 10-of-36 on 3-pointers. Frenchman Boris Diaw had 21 points, Barbosa finished with 15, but two-time league MVP Steve Nash was held to eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Despite the loss, the Suns are satisfied with the split, heading home.
'We came here to take our home-court advantage back, we would have liked to have gotten two here but that would have been exceptional,' Bell said. 'We are happy to have the home court back and have the best-of-three, with two at our place.'© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur