HEAT rally past Nets in double OT, 94-86
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Sports Writer
MIAMI (AP) It was time, Mario Chalmers said.
Time to send Miami to Boston for the opening weekend of the playoffs.
Time to put New Jersey’s miserable season to a predictable end as well.
Chalmers gave Miami the lead for good early in the second overtime, then assisted on each of his team’s final three field goals as the Heat wrapped up the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference by beating the Nets 94-86 Wednesday night – sending New Jersey to its 70th and final loss of the season.
“We had a lot of these nights,” Nets guard Devin Harris said.
Michael Beasley had 25 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out, Chalmers finished with 15 points and Dorell Wright and James Jones each scored 11 for Miami, which wasted a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Miami (47-35), the No. 5 seed for the second straight season, heads to Boston this weekend.
“You might say we were just trying to get ready for the next season,” Chalmers said. “We’ve got a big competition coming up with Boston.”
Yi Jianlian scored 23 points and pulled down 15 rebounds for New Jersey (12-70), which erased a 12-point deficit in the final 6:48 of regulation. Courtney Lee scored 17, Brook Lopez had 12 and Harris 10 for New Jersey.
“Looking forward to getting back to my day job and preparing for the draft. I’m excited about that,” said Kiki Vandeweghe, the Nets general manager-turned-interim coach. “This was a good group to coach. We didn’t win a lot, but we came to play. Second half of the season, they really came to play.”
The Heat chose to rest Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem with an array of minor injuries, and Jermaine O’Neal sat while continuing to recover from an ankle problem. None of the issues are expected to affect their availability for Game 1 of the playoffs, and O’Neal insisted he would be ready for practice by Friday.
“Now we can prepare for the playoffs, something that we’re all excited about,” Wade said.
Sparked by a long 3-pointer from former Heat guard Chris Quinn, the Nets went on a 19-7 run to close regulation and the teams went into overtime tied at 78.
By then, the scenarios were simple.
A Miami win, the Heat would get Boston in the first round and the Nets would lose No. 70.
A Miami loss, and the Heat would see Atlanta for the second straight year in the opening round.
Bring on Boston.
Miami’s 47 wins rank as the seventh-best total in franchise history, and the most since the 2005-06 team won 52 on its way to claiming the NBA championship.
It’s the sixth time in Wade’s seven seasons that the Heat made the playoffs, something plenty of so-called experts said wouldn’t happen back when the year began. Proving those critics wrong became a bit of a rallying cry for Miami this season, especially over the final seven weeks, when the Heat started playing their best basketball and climbed out from under the .500 mark.
“The guys in that locker room, they have a lot of pride and took that personal,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It could have gone the other way. In January, I think everyone expected us to break. … This group was unique. We found strength.”
So now, it’s off to Boston – and there will be doubters once again.
The Heat are 1-11 in their last 12 games against the Celtics, the one win coming in a game where neither Rajon Rondo nor Kevin Garnett played and Miami still had to rally in the second half.
Miami went 0-3 against Boston this season, losing by seven, six and five points. It’s the first time the Heat and Celtics will meet in the playoffs.
“All three games were competitive,” Spoelstra said. “But it’s a tough place to play and they are champions, so you have to respect what they have done.”
Miami finished the season with wins in 18 of its last 22 games; the Celts lost seven of their final 10 to end the regular season.
For the Nets, there was just relief that the worst season in franchise history is over.
“It was not a good year for us,” forward Chris Douglas-Roberts said, “not at all.”
The first sign of trouble, fittingly, came for New Jersey on opening night, when the Nets blew a 19-point lead, got outscored 31-15 in the fourth quarter and lost to Minnesota. That was the first of 18 straight defeats to begin the year, costing coach Lawrence Frank his job, and the Nets seemed capable of bumping the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers out of the record books by losing more than 73 games.
The only other teams in NBA history to lose 70 games, besides Philadelphia’s 9-73 club, are Dallas (11-71, 1992-93), Denver (11-71, 1997-98) and the Los Angeles Clippers (12-70, 1986-87).
Much like the Heat, the Nets expect to have a much different look next season.
Miami and New Jersey are two of the teams with plenty of salary-cap room to utilize during the expected free agent bonanza this summer, and the Nets have made no secret that they are hoping for immediate upgrades.
They had plenty of chances Wednesday night.
In the end, a season marked by losses ended – naturally – with another.
“It was an abysmal season,” Harris said. “It was a disappointing season.”
NOTES: Heat F Quentin Richardson will be in the playoffs for just the second time in his 10 seasons. He went to the Western Conference finals with Phoenix in 2005. … New Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall was at the game, sporting a Florida Marlins cap. … Quinn and Keyon Dooling, both former Heat players, spent plenty of time greeting friends before the game.
Updated April 14, 2010