Heat 99, Nets 89
It's March and the Miami Heat are again getting their act together for the playoffs.
Dwyane Wade had 27 points and 12 assists, and the Heat beat the free-falling New Jersey Nets 99-89 on Monday night for their eighth win in 11 games this month.
``It's playoff time. It's money time,'' forward Michael Beasley said after the Heat overcame a sluggish start to hand the Nets their eighth straight loss. ``We all want to make a push in the playoffs. We've got to play like it.''
Historically, Miami has played well in March. Since the 2003-04 season, it has compiled a 65-39 record, with the 65 wins and the .625 winning percentage being the highest for the team in any month over that seven-year period.
After spending recent months a bubble team, the big March has lifted Miami into sixth place in the Eastern Conference, a game ahead of Charlotte and Toronto and 3 1/2 in front of ninth-place Chicago.
``We had to win,'' Wade said. ``We've got 11 games left. We look at our schedule and say we should win a majority of our games. Hopefully every one will be healthy. We get Udonis (Haslem) back Thursday and we can hopefully put a run together. We'll take it game by game, but most games we go in to, we feel that we can win and should win.''
Jermaine O'Neal, who was returning after missing a game with a sprained ankle, added 25 points. Beasley had eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and Carlos Arroyo finished with 12.
Brook Lopez had 26 points as the Nets (7-63) moved closer toward the worst record in NBA history in a month they probably would like to forget.
New Jersey has to win two of its final 12 to avoid breaking the Philadelphia 76ers' mark for futility (9-73), set in 1972-73.
The Nets played without interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe, whose mother is gravely ill in California. Assistant John Loyer replaced him.
Devin Harris added 16 points and Courtney Lee had 15 for New Jersey, which extended its franchise record with its 14th straight loss at home.
Miami trailed by seven after allowing the Nets to score 32 points in the opening period. It cut the lead to a point at the half and like so many teams, took control against New Jersey by outscoring it 27-14 in the third quarter.
``By the second quarter we tightened it up defensively,'' Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. ``That was the difference in the game. You look at a team like the Nets and their record, and you're very deceived by it.''
Wade had 10 points in the period and set the tone early with a drive down the lane that he finished off with a monster dunk that cut the Nets' lead to 57-56.
Quentin Richardson gave the Heat the lead for good with a 3-pointer and Wade followed with a drive that ended with a fingertip roll for a layup.
After Terrence Williams hit a turnaround jumper, O'Neal converted a three-point play on a basket where the ball slipped out of his hands and swished. Beasley followed with a baseline jumper for a 66-59 lead and New Jersey never got closer than five points the rest of the way in falling to 0-3 against Miami this season.
``It was a tale of all tales,'' Harris said. ``We had a good solid first half. The third quarter, obviously, we didn't shoot the ball well and didn't guard, and there was a six-minute stretch that we've been known to have from time to time and it dug us a hole we could not get out of.''
Williams had to leave the game midway through the third quarter after injuring his left foot on a drive to the basket. He finished with nine points, eight rebounds and seven assists. X-rays were negative, but he wore a plastic boot on his foot in the locker room.
Despite shooting nearly 57 percent from the field in the first half, the Heat trailed 53-52.
The difference was free throws. The Nets made 19 of 23 from the line and got a running - and we mean running - 3-pointer from Williams at the buzzer to take the lead.
O'Neal and Wade kept Miami in the game, combining for 31 points, with Wade also handing out six assists.
NOTES: Miami has a blocked shot in 198 straight games. ... Haslem missed the game for Miami with a sprained ankle. ... G Keyon Dooling was out for the Nets with the flu. ...The Heat ended a three-game road losing streak. ...The Heat are 22-2 when holding teams under 90 points and 20-1 when the opposition shots less than 40 percent. The Nets shot 37.5 percent.