MIAMI (AP) -- Long removed from their 0-7 start, the Miami Heat
now seem unbeatable at home -- which is why they're headed for the
second round of the NBA playoffs.
With the Heat running from the start and New Orleans guard Baron
Davis hobbled by halftime, Miami extended its home winning streak
to 16 games by beating the Hornets 85-77 Tuesday night to clinch
the first-round series, 4-3.
The home team won every game, and the Heat became the final NBA
team to reach round two -- and the most improbable. They were 25-57
last season, 0-7 in November, 5-15 in December and 25-36 in March
before staging a late-season surge.
"We have a lot to be proud of," forward Lamar Odom said. "At
5-15 in the NBA, a lot of teams start to get ready for next year.
But we worked and worked and worked and worked and worked. This win
tonight -- that's all that hard work. It paid off."
Miami advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals against the
top-seeded Indiana Pacers, who have been idle since completing a
sweep of Boston on April 25.
"I'm not talking about Indiana tonight," Heat coach Stan Van
Gundy said with a grin. "That's out. I'm enjoying this for at
least three or four hours."
Game 1 is Thursday in Indianapolis.
"If I was Indiana, I'd be kind of nervous playing against this
team," the Hornets' Davis said. "They're young and talented, and
they play like they've got nothing to lose."
Smothering defense and a potent transition game gave a crowd of
20,286 -- the largest in Heat history -- plenty to cheer about.
Caron Butler led the winner-take-all victory with 23 points, and
Rafer Alston made four free throws in the final 2:09 after the
Hornets reduced a 16-point deficit to five. Miami finished with 18
fast-break points to five for New Orleans.
"It was Aqueduct race track out there tonight," said Odom, who
had 16 points and nine rebounds. "We just keep pushing it and
The injury-plagued Davis bruised his tailbone when he drew an
offensive foul and took a tumble late in the second quarter. He
limped to the locker room before halftime, played just three
minutes in the second half and watched the fourth quarter from the
bench as New Orleans turned to veteran Steve Smith for the bulk of
Davis had been hampered earlier in the series by knee, ankle and
"I can't move too much," he shouted to coach Tim Floyd shortly
before leaving the game for good with the Hornets trailing 52-39.
"If I could have played, I would have played," Davis said
later. "I could hardly walk."
Miami made the other Hornets look just as slow, outscoring them
14-0 on fast-break points in the first half. The Heat defense
forced 21 turnovers to create repeated opportunities in the open
"Our Achilles' heel was turnovers," Hornets forward P.J. Brown
said. "We didn't take care of the ball, and they took advantage."
None of New Orleans' starters reached double figures until the
final three minutes. The 35-year-old Smith came off the bench to
keep them in the game with a season-high 25 points, including five
The young Heat survived some shaky moments down the stretch.
They had their biggest lead, 71-55 with less than seven minutes
left, but two 3-pointers by Smith helped cut the margin to 73-68
with 3:22 to go.
Smith missed a 3-pointer that would have cut the margin to three
with 44 seconds left, and Dwyane Wade's dunk with 32 seconds
remaining sealed the win.
The defeat ended an up-and-down season for first-year Hornets
coach Floyd, whose job may be in jeopardy after his veteran team
felt short of expectations.
"This team needs to do some soul-searching -- everyone, not just
the players," center Jamaal Magloire said.
The first Game 7 of the NBA playoffs was lopsided most of the
night. The Hornets fell behind by 10 points early, drew even and
then went 6:54 without a point as the Heat scored 15 consecutive
points to lead 33-18 midway through the second quarter.
The sellout crowd was a factor from the start -- an
all-too-familiar scenario for the Hornets, who finished 0-6 in
Miami this season.
"This was an incredible atmosphere tonight," Floyd said.
"Their fans have gotten behind this team. They've energized these
young guys. They played at a different quickness level tonight.
They just got us on our heels early with their attack."
The early deficits left the Hornets with few opportunities for
the trash-talking that served as a soundtrack to their Game 6
victory. And given the rambunctious crowd, the Heat wouldn't have
heard the taunts anyway.
All was forgiven when the 17-day series ended, and players from
the two teams exchanged hugs and handshakes after the final
Stan Van Gundy became the first rookie coach to win a Game
7 since Paul Westphal of Phoenix against Seattle in 1993. ... The
Heat went 0-3 against the Pacers during the regular season.