Nets wilt against Heat, 111-89

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MIAMI (AP) – The opening minutes again told almost the entire story. And this time, Dwyane Wade made sure the Miami Heat enjoyed the ride.

Wade scored 17 of his 31 points in the first quarter, sparking the Heat to a huge early lead that they rode to a 111-89 victory over the New Jersey Nets in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Wednesday night.

Shaquille O’Neal added 21 points for Miami, which outscored New Jersey 25-4 in the game’s first 5:49 and never looked back, ensuring that it wouldn’t suffer the ignominy of losing the first two games of a series at home.

Now, to reclaim homecourt advantage, the Heat will need to win only once in New Jersey, where the best-of-seven series resumes Friday night.

Vince Carter had 22 points for the Nets, while Richard Jefferson – showing no ill effects from the ankle-and-heel bone bruise he suffered in Game 1 – added 16. Jason Kidd had 15 points and Nenad Krstic added 14 for the Nets.

Jason Williams scored 14 points, Udonis Haslem had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Gary Payton added 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting for Miami.

The Heat left no doubt early, their emphatic opening run getting fueled by a trio of 3-pointers from Wade – who has never made more than three as a pro, yet had that many in the first 4:17 of Game 2.

It seemed like everything that went wrong for the Heat in the opener went their way Wednesday. Miami trailed 18-5 in the early minutes of Game 1 and was down by 17 after the first quarter of that game, en route to a 12-point loss.

Wade vowed this one would be different.

And he delivered.

He made his first five shots, outscoring the Nets 13-4 in the first 3:59. Miami made 10 of its first 13 shots, while the Nets misfired on nine of their first 11 tries. And by the time either member of New Jersey’s starting backcourt scored, Wade and Williams already had 21 points for the Heat.

Wade’s jumper with 0.9 seconds left in the opening quarter, over Carter, gave Miami a 41-19 lead. New Jersey didn’t crack the 41-point mark until its first possession of the second half, when Jefferson hit a 20-footer to draw the Nets within 60-42.

But before the crowd could grow antsy, Williams hit Haslem with an alley-oop lob, and the Heat kept a stranglehold on the lead, which swelled to 25 later in the third quarter.

It was, by any measure, a completely different performance by Miami, which in 48 hours transformed itself from a bumbling crew to one that looks again like a possible title contender.

Miami’s shooting? Try 39 percent in Game 1, 53 percent in Game 2 – and that dipped a bit after the Heat emptied the bench in the fourth quarter.

Turnovers? In Game 1, Miami had nine in the first quarter. Game 2, nine in the first three quarters.

Shaq’s foul trouble? A factor in Game 1. Not a factor in Game 2.

O’Neal had 11 points in the third quarter, three baskets coming after Jason Collins went to the bench with five fouls only 1:49 into the second half. And all the while, O’Neal’s father, Phil Harrison, sat not far from the court in a white cap and shirt, nodding his approval.

New Jersey made one rally, an 11-2 run over a 3-minute stretch late in the third. Jefferson hit a floater from the foul line with 1:55 left to cut Miami’s lead to 79-64, and Lamond Murray’s open 3-point try 44 seconds later hit the back iron, but wouldn’t fall.

O’Neal grabbed the rebound, then later in the possession found James Posey for a 3-pointer that restored an 18-point lead. Antoine Walker and Payton then hit consecutive 3-pointers to open the fourth, and Wade crossover-dribbled his way free for a spectacular dunk that made it 92-68 with 10:36 left.

And with the lead 105-81 with 6:00 left, the Nets made a wholesale lineup change, getting all their regulars some rest for Game 3. O’Neal and Wade didn’t play again from that point, either.

Notes: Wade’s 17 points were a Heat postseason record for the first quarter, and the team’s 41 points set a record for any period. … New Jersey turned the ball over three times in the first five minutes; Miami made 3-pointers after each giveaway. … Former Nets standout Kenyon Martin was in attendance, as was Florida Panthers coach Jacques Martin, singers Kelly Rowland and Gloria Estefan, and Hall of Fame center Bill Russell. … Even down by 23 points late in the half, Carter enjoyed watching the Heat’s “Golden Oldies” – a collection of seniors age 62 to 80, dancing at midcourt. “Funnier than hell,” Carter said as they trotted off.

AP-ES-05-10-06 2246EDT

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