MIAMI – Shaquille O’Neal had 21 points and nine rebounds, Dwyane Wade added 17 points and the Miami Heat shook off the effects of a humbling opening-night rout to defeat the New Jersey Nets 91-85 on Friday night.

The Heat – who lost to Chicago by 42 points on Tuesday – avoided becoming the sixth defending NBA champion to start a season 0-2. And no reigning titleholder had ever opened a year with consecutive home losses, but this win wasn’t decided until the final moments.

Vince Carter, who led New Jersey with 27 points, hit a short jumper from the left baseline to tie the game at 73 with 5:56 left. On Miami’s next possession, James Posey – with the shot clock down to :02 – hit a long 3-pointer to put the Heat back on top, and they stayed there the rest of the way.

Wade missed five consecutive shots in the second half, so he started setting up teammates instead. A crosscourt pass to Gary Payton resulted in a 3-pointer with 3:06 left for an 81-75 lead, and after the Nets scored the next five points, Wade found Posey for another 3 that put Miami up 84-80.

With 1:26 left, Wade sealed it – he ducked behind Jason Kidd, Payton delivered a perfect bounce pass and Wade scored to give Miami an 86-82 lead.

O’Neal was 10-of-16 from the field, a far cry from his seven-point, five-rebound showing against the Bulls on Tuesday. Payton had 14 points for Miami, while Antoine Walker added 11 and Posey 10.

Nenad Krstic had 20 points and Richard Jefferson added 11 on 4-of-15 shooting for the Nets, who lost to Miami in five games in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.

Miami led 43-41 at halftime, closing the second quarter on a 13-5 run and doing it all with Wade benched by three fouls.

In the third, Miami used another 13-5 run to build a 65-62 lead going into the final 12 minutes.

New Jersey led 57-52 when Krstic hit a jumper, but the Nets made only two of their next eight shots – while O’Neal had eight points in the quarter to help Miami regain the lead.

Notes: Miami outscored New Jersey 22-17 in the second quarter, the first winning period for the Heat this season. … The Nets hit their first three tries from 3-point range, then were 3-of-17 the rest of the way. … Through two games, Miami is 8-of-33 on 3-pointers. … New Jersey C Clifford Robinson sat out the last of his five-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

AP-ES-11-03-06 2209EST



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