Yet to Mourning and the Miami Heat, what ultimately mattered was being one point better.
Dwyane Wade made a free throw with 5.2 seconds left and then blocked Carter's potentially game-winning layup at the buzzer to give Miami a 90-89 win over New Jersey on Monday night and snap a two-game losing streak.
"All ball," Wade said.
"A win is a win, regardless of how you look at it," Mourning said. "We needed a win."
On the final play, Carter drove left toward the basket -- but had his shot slapped away by Wade, who was helping Mourning protect the rim.
"I was hoping he didn't pull up and shoot a jumper, because he was on," Mourning said. "I wanted him to come to the hole, so I did the best I could. I just jumped straight into the air. They could have called a foul. ... I didn't think it was a foul, but things went our way this evening."
Wade, who had 23 points, drove on the Nets' Jason Kidd and was fouled -- a call that also didn't sit well with Frank and the Nets. Wade made the second of two free throws, setting up the game-ending drama.
"I certainly thought I was going to get the call," said Carter, who was 14-of-21 from the floor and finished with a game-high 32 points. "There was a lot of contact on that play. At least two guys hit me."
Frank, the Nets' coach, ran halfway across the court to plead his case, but his team -- which rallied from a pair of double-digit deficits after halftime -- left bitter after losing to Miami for the 10th straight time.
"Never would I question the officials' judgment, but there didn't seem to be a great deal of contact on that play," Frank said, referring to Kidd's foul of Wade. "There was no intentional foul. I guess there was a whole lot more contact on that play than the next play."
Antoine Walker had 18 points and Gary Payton added 13 for the Heat. Mourning had 11 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, while Jason Williams added 11 points for Miami -- which again played without the injured Shaquille O'Neal and used a seven-man rotation.
New Jersey got 20 points and 15 rebounds from Richard Jefferson and 11 points from Kidd.
"We want that same call at home if we're ever put in that position," Kidd said.
Miami went up 80-70 on a 3-pointer by Williams with 9:13 left, but the Nets nearly pulled off a big rally. Carter's 3-pointer with 1:25 left drew New Jersey to 89-87, and his jumper 34.9 seconds later got the Nets into their first tie since Jefferson scored to
make it 8-all 4:04 into the game.
Payton missed a 3-pointer with 26 seconds left, but Mourning collected the rebound and gave Miami an extra possession. Wade hit his free throw 21 seconds later.
"It was just a very good win," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We need everything we can get right now."
A highlight-reel move by Wade -- he leaped, spun nearly 360 degrees around the Nets' Jason Collins and blindly made a layup -- put Miami up 59-48 early in the third. Yet the Heat went scoreless for the next 5:03, their lead trimmed to 59-58 when Jeff McInnis
But Miami only trailed once, a 29-second stretch early in the game.
Carter and Jefferson scored 26 of the Nets' first 28 points, combining to shoot 10-for-11 in the opening quarter. For as good as New Jersey was early offensively, the Heat were better.
Miami made 73.7 percent of its first-quarter shots to take a 32-28 lead before cooling to a 45 percent pace in the second. But New Jersey slipped even farther in that period; it shot 8-for-23, or 34.8 percent. And the Heat maintained that defensive intensity the rest of the way.
"We know we can score the basketball," Mourning said. "But we haven't proven that we can stop people, do it on a consistent basis and do it when it counts."
Williams and Walker exchanged words and angry glares in the third quarter after a Heat play went awry. ... Collins suffered a cut over his right eye with 1:01 left in the half. He took seven stitches and started the third quarter. ... Dan Marino was honored at halftime by the Heat, who awarded the former Dolphins quarterback a No. 13 jersey and $25,000 for his foundation. "It's been an incredible weekend," said Marino, who received his Hall of Fame ring Sunday.
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