The voice on the line belonged to O'Neal, who wanted to drop one
last line of reassurance into the head of his teammate who had
struggled so badly in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. No
matter that it was already past 3 a.m.
"I was up, and if I was up I wanted him to be up," O'Neal
The message was the last thing Wade heard before going to sleep,
and it certainly sunk in. Miami's up-and-coming superstar
rediscovered his aggressiveness and took over in the fourth quarter
Wednesday night, scoring 20 of his 40 points over the final 12
minutes as the Heat defeated the Detroit Pistons 92-86 to even the
best-of-seven series 1-1.
This was the type of dominant offensive effort the Heat had
grown accustomed to receiving from the 23-year-old during their
consecutive sweeps of New Jersey and Washington in the first two
rounds of the playoffs. Wade was able to summon another burst of
brilliance to avoid having his team head to Detroit down 2-0.
"I wanted my voice to be the last he heard. I wanted to give
him some inspiration," said O'Neal, who disregarded the danger of
possibly waking Wade's wife and son. "He took a lot of heat for
having a bad first game. I just told him to take your time, let the
game come to you -- and I'm here with you no matter what."
Wade scored 14 of Miami's first 16 points in the final quarter,
then raced in from behind and came up with a crucial block of
Chauncey Billups' 3-point attempt to help the Heat hold off the
defending NBA champions.
"I watched a lot of film, listened to a lot of people and used
everything my college coach and NBA coach told me, too," said
Wade, who shot 7-for-25 in Game 1. "They told me to come back with
a good game. I was rushing some shots. I wasn't being patient.
Tonight, I came out patient."
The series resumes Sunday night, each team having asserted
Wade eclipsed 30 points for the sixth time this postseason and
reached 40 points for the second time, while O'Neal added 17 points
and 10 rebounds and Damon Jones had 14 points.
"I know I'm human and am going to have some bad games, but it's
all about how you come back the next day," Wade said. "[Miami
president Pat] Riley told me even the great ones, even [Michael]
Jordan, have bad games. Don't put it all on yourself."
Wade's fourth-quarter outburst started with a bank shot and a
driving dunk before O'Neal hit a jump hook. Wade scored Miami's
next 10 points on a tip-in, two 14-footers, a drive into the lane
and an alley-oop dunk, the last of which put the Heat ahead 78-76
with 5:12 left.
Detroit tied it once more before O'Neal converted a three-point
play with 3:59 remaining to make it 81-78 and put the Heat ahead
After Mourning blocked a shot by Ben Wallace, Wade converted a
fast-break layup for a five-point lead and Mourning added two free
throws with 3:18 left to make it 85-78. A basket by Billups and a
miss by Wade gave Detroit a chance to pull within two, but Wade
came up behind Billups and swatted away his 3-point attempt -- a
play that led to a fast-break layup by Jones that made it 87-80.
The Pistons scored the next four points and had a chance to tie,
but Rasheed Wallace missed a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left -- one
of 14 misses from behind the arc for the Pistons on a night when
they fell too much in love with the long shot.
Wade, who relied too much on his jump shot in Game 1, made 14 of
his 15 field goals from 14 feet or nearer. He also went 10-for-10
from the foul line and closed the game with a breakaway dunk to
reach 40 points with 1 second left.
"Dwyane, for two years, has been a guy that when you find an
answer to him, he'll go back and take a look and made
adjustments," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. "It's one of the
reasons that he's as good as he is, and one of the reasons this
organization has the respect for him that we do."
Detroit made its comeback from a 14-point deficit by hitting
five 3-pointers in the third quarter, and the Pistons eventually
made seven straight 3s while enduring a stretch of nearly 12
minutes without a 2-pointer.
Wade was more aggressive going to the basket right from the
start, and he ended the first quarter with eight points, four
assists and two rebounds to help Miami to a 24-23 lead. Damon Jones
went 3-for-3 from the field in the second quarter, including
2-for-2 on 3-pointers, and Eddie Jones also hit a 3 as Miami
outscored the Pistons 23-13 in the period for a 46-37 halftime
Prince hit a 3-pointer midway though the third quarter to help
Detroit get within five, and the Pistons' final five field goals of
the period came from 3-point range, including a shot by Lindsey
Hunter that rattled in with 5.3 seconds left in the period and
ended an 11-1 run to put Detroit ahead 63-62.
Larry Brown, responding to a published report suggesting he
might want to leave the Pistons after this season and become
Cleveland's president of basketball operations, said he has never
spoken to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Brown said he would like to
remain Detroit's coach -- but only if he's able to overcome a health
problem he plans to address as soon as the season ends. ... The
teams combined for 46 free throws -- 23 each -- after attempting only
22 in Game 1. ... Billups' eight turnovers was three shy of the NBA
playoff record set by John Williamson of the New Jersey Nets
against Philadelphia on April 11, 1979.