MIAMI (AP) -- After a preseason where Miami routinely faced huge
deficits, then endured a 42-point loss to Chicago on opening night,
Heat coach Pat Riley wondered if his team was on the cusp of a
O'Neal had 21 points and nine rebounds, Dwyane Wade finished
with 17 points, and the Heat got plenty of contributors down the
stretch to beat the New Jersey Nets 91-85 on Friday night.
"Bad things that happen to us," O'Neal said, "will only make
No reigning titleholder had ever opened a year with consecutive
home losses, but this win wasn't decided until the final moments --
and went Miami's way thanks largely to Gary Payton and James
Posey's late efforts.
Posey hit two crucial 3-pointers in the final minutes and
finished with 10 points, while Payton, who had 14 points, also hit
a late 3 to preserve the Heat's fledgling lead. And then Wade
helped seal it, ducking behind Jason Kidd, taking a perfect pass
from Payton and scoring for an 86-82 lead.
"We didn't perform the way we wanted to," Wade said, "but
this team always responds."
Vince Carter had 27 points for New Jersey, including a short
jumper from the left baseline to tie the game at 73 with 5:56 left.
"We were in a good position the last 6 minutes of the game,
with a chance to win the game," Carter said. "We felt like we
were right there. Two big 3s by, I think, Posey and G.P. made us
Indeed, Posey hit a 3-pointer on Miami's next possession -- with
the shot clock down to :02 -- and the Heat stayed ahead the rest of
"That was a little bit of the team I remember," Riley said.
The Heat avoided becoming the sixth defending NBA champion to
start a season 0-2, and looked nothing like the group that got
embarrassed by the Bulls on the night they received their
O'Neal said the emotions of the pregame ceremony doomed Miami in
"It's hard to go from happy-jolly to kill 'em all," said
O'Neal, who was 10-of-16 from the field to make amends for
Tuesday's seven-point, five-rebound effort against Chicago.
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.
Kidd, who had a triple-double in New Jersey's season-opener, had
nine points, nine rebounds and three assists.
"Our guys gave a very good effort," Nets coach Lawrence Frank
said. "We got the game in the last 6 minutes where it was tied and
could go either way."
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 take the lead again. And in the
fourth, the balanced effort got it done for the Heat.
"We just didn't do a good job of closing it out," Jefferson
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