- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2006

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Nets can’t stop Dwyane Wade, and yesterday they couldn’t solve Antoine Walker or Udonis Haslem, either.

Now they have to figure out something much tougher — how to come back from a 3-1 deficit.

Wade had 31 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and the Miami Heat beat New Jersey 102-92 to move within a game of a second straight trip to the Eastern Conference finals.

Wade was sensational as usual, but it was the play of Walker and Haslem during a key stretch of the third quarter that gave Miami the cushion it needed to hold on for its third straight victory. The Heat can now wrap it up when they play host to Game 5 tomorrow night in Miami.

“We’re not surprised. When we play Miami Heat basketball on both ends of the floor, we’re a tough team to beat, at home or on the road,” Wade said. “We go home to Game 5 and try to close it out at home.”

Walker scored 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting and Haslem added 20 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 8-for-11. They combined for 16 of Miami’s 22 points during the third period, when the Heat built their lead to as much as 11.

“They hit shots, they hit a lot of shots,” Nets forward Richard Jefferson said. “Udonis Haslem, I swear he didn’t miss one tonight.”

Jason Kidd tried to rally the Nets, collecting his ninth postseason triple-double and moving over to guard Wade after his hot start. But New Jersey could never regain the lead after the first quarter.

Kidd had 17 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, tying Wilt Chamberlain for third place on the postseason career list and moving within one of Larry Bird for second.

Vince Carter added 26 points and Jefferson scored 17. Nenad Krstic had 20 points and 14 rebounds.

Only eight teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series, though it did happen earlier in this postseason when the Phoenix Suns rallied past the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It’s tough. You want to take care of business at home,” Carter said. “We put ourselves in the hole. We’re not going to hang our heads and say it’s over. I expect us to come out stick together, play hard.”

The game was tied at 54-54 before Walker drilled consecutive 3-pointers for a 60-54 lead. Carter made a basket, but Haslem knocked down three straight jumpers as the Heat pushed the lead to 66-56 with 5:42 remaining in the third quarter.

“Antoine is there to be a psychological threat,” Miami coach Pat Riley said. “Teams feel he might go on a run. Udonis was solid throughout the game defensively and in the third making shots.”

The lead grew to 70-59 on Walker’s basket in the lane with 4:03 left in the quarter, but Lamond Murray hit a 3-pointer and Kidd made three free throws at the end of a 12-4 spurt as the Nets pulled within 74-71 with 1:11 to go. Miami was up 76-73 after three.

Wade opened the fourth with a drive before the Nets scored four straight to get within one. Carter then missed two free throws, and the Nets missed three more chances to take the lead before Haslem’s follow made it 80-77 with 7:38 to go.

Haslem added two more big plays down the stretch, hitting a jumper after a scramble to extend Miami’s lead to 92-87 with 2:37 remaining, then hitting a pair of free throws with 1:32 left after the Nets had gotten within two.

Wade was 6-for-7 in the first quarter, capping his 12-point period with a jumper with 2.4 seconds left that gave Miami a 27-24 lead. The Heat shot 65 percent (13-for-20) in the first 12 minutes.

But they missed a chance to expand their lead much more with some poor free throw shooting in the second. They missed four of seven during a 4-minute stretch without a field goal, allowing New Jersey to tie it at 44-44.

Jason Williams made a 3-pointer to break the tie, and Walker added one later in the period as Miami took a 54-48 lead at halftime. The Nets were only 7-for-25 (28 percent) from the field in the second quarter and 37 percent in the first half.

Notes — Magic Johnson is the career leader with 30 postseason triple-doubles. … Miami improved to 4-0 in playoff games at New Jersey, including wins in Game 3 and 4 during their first-round sweep in 2005. … The New York Giants’ Eli Manning and LaVar Arrington were among those in the crowd. … The Heat improved to 6-0 when leading at halftime in this postseason.

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