WASHINGTON (AP) -- While Shaquille O'Neal sat, the
phenom-on-the-rise had a dazzling coming-out party.
Wade scored 22 of his career playoff-high 42 points in the
third, going 7-for-7 from the field and 8-for-8 from the free-throw
line. He broke franchise records for points in a playoff quarter
and a playoff game and scored 31, 31 and 42 in the last three games
of the series. He averaged 28.6 in sweeps over New Jersey and
Washington, more than compensating for the ailing O'Neal.
"To me, it's a remake of 'A Star is Born.' You could take the
two series and make a movie out of it, because he's certainly
raised his game," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "He's
certainly a bona fide star in this league right now at his tender
young age, whatever it is."
For the record, Wade is 23. More fans will want to know facts
after Saturday night's prime-time show, intensifying a star status
he has already started to sense as the playoffs progress.
"When you go out, you feel a little different. The players
treat you a little different around the league," said Wade, who
has been overshadowed by fellow 2003 draftees LeBron James and
Carmelo Anthony. "But at the same time, I'm just going to try to
get better. Hopefully, this whole season, not just the playoffs,
people got an opportunity to see the way that I play, and I hope
they like it."
O'Neal missed his second straight game with a deep thigh bruise
that has hobbled him for several weeks. The sweep will give him a
minimum of eight days to recover, with the conference finals
against Detroit or Indiana not scheduled to start until May 23, at
"There's always a Diesel flow to our team," Wade said. "Shaq
came to us before the game and told us: 'I'm proud of y'all. You
can do this regardless.' And we did it with the help of our big
man. He wasn't in the game with us, but he was just as big in these
two games. It's very big to give him some more rest."
A healthy O'Neal wasn't necessary against New Jersey or
Washington. The Heat went 15-0 against the two teams and are the
first team in NBA history to sweep the same two teams in the
playoffs that it swept during the regular season. Miami has also
won 12 straight against Washington over two seasons.
For all of Wade's heroics, the series wasn't complete until
Eddie Jones made a 3-pointer from the right wing with 14.9 seconds
remaining. The Heat blew an 11-point lead over the final six
minutes and had missed 16 straight shots until Jones' basket gave
Miami a 97-95 lead.
Washington's Larry Hughes had a chance to tie the game with a
drive to the basket, but Alonzo Mourning blocked the shot with 8.3
seconds remaining. Wade then made two free throws for the final
points, ending the Wizards' best season in decades. They made the
playoffs for the first time in eight years and won a series for the
first time since 1982.
"We wanted to be a lot more competitive as far as wins in this
series," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "But it was a
learning process for a young team, a team that had to deal with
The Wizards simply could not stop Wade in the third quarter,
whether he was working himself open for a jumper or grabbing an
offensive rebound and going back up for a dunk. He finished
13-for-22 from the field and 16-for-17 from the line.
"Most people now think he's in the top 10 or 15 players in the
league," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "He's earned as much respect
as you can earn in your second year."
Damon Jones added 19 points for the Heat, including 12 points in
the pivotal third quarter when he made all four of his 3-point
attempts. Miami outscored Washington 40-25 in the third, opening an
11-point lead that became 13 when Eddie Jones opened the fourth
with a basket.
All hope for the Wizards appeared to end when Gilbert Arenas
fouled out with 6:04 remaining and his team trailing by 10, but
Juan Dixon made a pair of 3-pointers and Antawn Jamison hit a 3
that put the Wizards ahead 95-94 with 1:15 to play.
Arenas scored 25 points for the Wizards before fouling out for
just the second time this season. Arenas, who usually throws his
jersey into the crowd after each game, did so immediately after
getting his sixth foul and was called for a technical.
"I didn't know I was going to get a technical for it," Arenas
said. "Actually, I was surprised that I fouled out. I didn't know
I had the sixth one already. That's what I do. Instead of sitting
there in a wet shirt, I go ahead and give it to somebody"
Brendan Haywood added 18 points and 15 rebounds for the Wizards.
Dixon and Hughes scored 15 apiece.
O'Neal must have felt very restless watching the game from the
bench. The Heat were outscored 20-8 and outrebounded 17-13 at the
center position. Mourning, effective in Game 3 in his first playoff
start in four years, was in constant foul trouble and contributed
little until his block at the end. Michael Doleac was more
effective hitting medium-range jumpers than he was trying to put
back offensive rebounds, and he also had three fouls in the first
The prognosis for O'Neal's return is uncertain, but he'll no
doubt be needed as the competition gets tougher.
"Obviously our team is not as good without Shaq," Van Gundy
said. "C'mon, he's the most dominant player in the league. But
we're going to go out and battle and play even if we don't have
The Heat are 8-3 this season without O'Neal. ... Wade's 42
points broke the Miami playoff record of 38 points set by Tim
Hardaway against New York on May 18, 1997. The 22 points in a
playoff quarter surpassed Hardaway's 20 in the second quarter at
Chicago on April 26, 1996. ... Wade also tied Mourning's franchise
record of seven 20-point games in a single postseason. ... The Heat
will need another sweep plus one more victory to match the longest
postseason winning streak in NBA history. The Lakers won 13 in a
row, spanning the 1988 and '89 seasons. ... Jordan fell to 0-15 as
a head coach against Miami. ... O'Neal said this week that his
aching leg has caused him to play "like Erick Dampier," referring
to the Dallas Mavericks center called out publicly by teammate Dirk
Nowitzki. Jordan played along Saturday, closing his pregame chat
with reporters by asking, "Is Erick Dampier playing tonight?"