- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 15, 2005

The playoffs are Dwyane Wade’s world, but the New Jersey Nets and now the Washington Wizards are no longer living in it.

The second-year Miami Heat guard, star of the first-round playoff sweep of the Nets and victories over the Wizards in the first three games of the Eastern semifinals, nearly beat Washington by himself at MCI Center last night as Miami finished its second four-game sweep 99-95.

Of course he had help. Eddie Jones, the steady veteran, hit a three-point basket with 14.9 seconds left to give the Heat a 97-95 lead after the Wizards erased a 94-83 deficit.

Guard Damon Jones buried six three-pointers and scored 19 points. And center Alonzo Mourning, again starting for injured Shaquille O’Neal but whose presence was barely felt in a foul-plagued effort, blocked Larry Hughes’ running shot in the final seconds that would have tied the game.

But above all, this was Wade’s night. He set a franchise playoff record with 42 points. He made 13 of 22 shots and 16 of 17 free-throw attempts. He scored 26 points in the second half, 22 in the third quarter alone.

“Fabulous,” O’Neal said. “He’s a fabulous kid.”

It was so obvious that Heat coach Stan Van Gundy had nothing to add.

“Dwayne was fabulous,” he merely said.,

Wade in the third quarter made all seven shots, including a couple of spectacular dunks, and all eight free throw attempts.

“Pretty unbelievable,” Van Gundy said. “I kept looking up, he’s got 30, he’s got 32, 34. Then he got to 40. I couldn’t believe he couldn’t get 48 or 50. I was very disappointed.”

Van Gundy was kidding.

“It was an incredible quarter by an incredible player,” he said. “I hated to take him out. He was on such a roll. But I had to give him some rest. He’d carried us and he was really, really tired.”

Said Wade: “It was a close game at the time, and it was just me trying to do what I can and help the team win. I had the ball in my hands every play, and I was in a rhythm.”

For much of the game, it appeared the Heat finally missed the big fella as O’Neal again sat on the bench in street clothes, nursing his bruised right thigh. Throughout the Nets series and the first two games against the Wizards, Shaq dragged his bum leg all over the court. He finally was ruled out for Game 3, but Miami got a great effort from Mourning and beat the Wizards.

But last night the 35-year-old Mourning, about 18 months removed from kidney transplant surgery, wasn’t a factor until the very end.

Michael Doleac, the Heat’s third-string center, did a little better. The Heat even went with forward Christian Laettner at center when Doleac also got in foul trouble. Combined, the three were outplayed by Wizards center Brendan Haywood, who had 13 points and nine rebounds at halftime.

The Wizards led by five early in the third quarter before Wade took over. The Heat built a 13-point edge early in the fourth quarter, but the Wizards stormed back, doing most of it without Gilbert Arenas, who scored 25 points before fouling out.

Then Mourning blocked Hughes’ shot with 8.3 seconds left. Although he finished with no points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes perhaps he never had a bigger play.

“I’m ruling out all the critics who say we’re a one or a two-man team,” he said. “Yes, we need Shaq to win. Yes we need D-Wade scoring. But we also need a team that’s ready to contribute.”

Against the Nets, Wade averaged 26.3 points, 8.8 assists and 6.3 rebounds. After a relatively quiet Game 1 against the Wizards (20 points, seven assists), he came back with 31 points, 15 assists and seven rebounds in Game 2, plus 31 points, nine rebounds and six assists in Game 3. He also played great defense.

“That’s the confidence,” Arenas said. “There’s no Shaq, so he’s the focus of the team. He doesn’t have to worry about anybody else. He just has to score, and he doesn’t have a conscience. He plays with a high level of confidence, and he doesn’t take a bad shot.”

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