More than four hours before game time, Dwyane Wade was alone on the Miami Heat practice court, just getting some shots up by himself. No coaches around, no teammates, no trainers, just him, a ball and his thoughts.
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It sparked his best scoring effort of the season.
Wade scored 34 points, LeBron James added 21 and the Heat rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat the Brooklyn Nets 102-89 on Saturday night to remain atop the Eastern Conference.
”I knew this was a big game for us, to come in versus a team that’s been playing very well,” Wade said. ”And I wanted to sure I came out ready. So I wanted to get in early and made sure I did everything possible.”
Ray Allen scored 13 and Norris Cole finished with 12 for the Heat, who won their sixth straight. Miami trailed by 14 points in the second quarter and was down by nine at halftime, before outscoring Brooklyn 52-30 in the second half.
Andray Blatche scored 20 points for Brooklyn, which had won five in a row. Gerald Wallace had 13 points, Joe Johnson added 12 and Deron Williams finished with 10 points and 12 assists.
The Nets were 10 for 31 from the field in the second half and lost to Miami for the 12th straight time.
”Just a tale of two halves,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. ”We just seemed to have worn down a little bit. We made some mistakes there that’s not our team. It’s uncharacteristic of us. We’re a team that takes care of the ball.”
Wade added seven assists and shot 14 for 20 for Miami. He reached the 30-point mark for the first time this season when he took an alley-oop pass from Allen and slammed the ball for a 90-81 edge with 5:14 left.
He added a 10-footer on Miami’s next possession for the Heat’s first double-digit edge of the game, helping the reigning NBA champions move to 8-0 at home this season.
”This was a step-forward game for us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”It was good to see our guys connected again. We didn’t necessarily play our best basketball in the first half, but in some ways, it was our best win.”
Miami has made a living off fourth-quarter comebacks this season, already winning six games where it trailed at some point in the final 12 minutes.
The latest Heat rally came a quarter earlier than usual.
Down 73-65 with 4:41 left in the third after trailing all night long, Miami ran off 10 straight points, and needed just 93 seconds to make it all happen.
Wade scored to get the Heat within two, then had a steal and dunk that tied the game. James had another steal-and-slam to give the Heat their first edge, 75-73 with 3:08 left in the period. James set up Mike Miller for a 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:51 left for an 80-75 edge, capping a 15-2 Miami burst.
And then Miami slammed the door with defense.
Brooklyn had just one field goal in the first 9:06 of the final quarter, missing 10 of 11 shots in that stretch as Miami – despite shooting 5 for 16 over the same stretch – pulled away.
”We’re a veteran ballclub and we understand that in order for us to win ballgames, in order for us to compete and defend our title, we have to defend,” James said. ”It was good to see we took care of that tonight.”
The Heat won by 30 the first time these teams met this season. It took the Nets only a few minutes to show this matchup would be much different.
Midway through the first quarter, Brooklyn was already holding a 15-4 lead. James had two fouls by the end of the quarter – the second coming on the offensive end in the final seconds – and the Nets were up 24-16 after the opening 12 minutes, holding Miami 10 points below its first-quarter average for the season.
Brooklyn continued to control the game in the second, going up 35-21 early in the quarter and still leading by 13 after Spoelstra got whistled for a technical foul, apparently upset with a no-call where Wade was knocked to the floor on a drive.
The Heat seemed sparked by Spoelstra’s technical, getting within five, but the Nets survived a brief Miami flurry and took a 59-50 lead into halftime, helped in large part by Johnson connecting on three jumpers in the span of about a minute.
”I think we are just as good as them,” Wallace said. ”We know what we’ve got to do offensively. You all watched the game. I think we were in the game until we pretty much until we started with unforced turnovers and started giving them easy baskets, but other than that I think we controlled this game, we had an opportunity to win and we should have won.”
James spent part of his day tracking his alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, winning a state football championship — and yes, the reigning NBA MVP, who got a Heat championship ring, was given a Kentucky NCAA title ring and helped the US win Olympic gold in London this year, wants a ring for the football title as well. ”I’m making a call,” James said. … Players from both teams wore red-and-white shooting shirts in recognition of World AIDS Day, and coaches wore red ribbons to commemorate the day as well. … The Nets have not won in Miami since Feb. 1, 2008. … James has scored at least 20 points in all 15 Miami games this season. … The Nets are now 7-3 against last season’s playoff teams.