Pressure? What pressure?
“I was smiling inside, just wanting to get the shot off,” Wade said. “I love that the guys would look to me at that time.”
Wade put the Heat ahead to stay by hitting the shot, a 3-pointer with 54 seconds left, and Miami beat the New Orleans Hornets 87-83 Friday night for a 3-2 lead in the first-round playoff series.
Wade made his second clutch last-minute basket of the series, but give the boisterous, black-clad crowd of 20,147 an assist. For the fifth time in as many games, home-court advantage proved insurmountable.
“Everybody in black helped will us to victory,” Wade said. “When you’ve got 20,000 people waiting to erupt and waiting for you to do anything, when you do it, it gives you the energy to get over the hump.”
The Heat overcame a 33-point performance by Baron Davis for their 15th consecutive victory in Miami. They can close out the series with a victory Sunday in New Orleans, but they’re 13-30 on the road this season.
“We’ve got to win,” Hornets guard Darrell Armstrong said. “If we don’t, get your golf clubs, get your fishing gear, get ready for summer.”
Should the Hornets win, Game 7 will be Tuesday in Miami. Awaiting the winner in the second round are the Indiana Pacers, who have been idle since completing a sweep of Boston last Sunday.
The Hornets fell to 0-5 in Miami this season, including a 30-point loss on their most recent visit. This one stung even more because New Orleans led by 11 points in the first half and was up 58-49 midway through the third quarter.
“We were in control the whole game, and down the stretch we kind of lost our composure,” Davis said.
Wade and Eddie Jones sparked the comeback by the Heat. They scored 29 points in the fourth quarter, and the 11-point deficit was the largest Miami has overcome in a playoff game.
“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be composed on our home floor,” Wade said. “Even though they had the lead most of the game, we were confident.”
Once the Heat took the lead down the stretch, they struggled to keep it. On one possession the Hornets missed three consecutive shots but rebounded each one before Davis hit a 3-pointer to put his team up 76-75.
The Heat tied it twice, then got the ball back with less than 90 seconds left when Davis missed a 3-pointer. Lamar Odom passed in the corner to an open Wade, whose 3-pointer went swish as the 24-second clock expired.
Wade also made the winning basket with 1.3 seconds left in Game 1.
“Anytime it comes to crunch time, I love the moment,” he said.
Following a timeout, Armstrong missed two long jumpers—the first of which was blocked by Caron Butler. Butler made three free throws and Jones added another with 14 seconds left to clinch the victory.
Jones scored 25 points and Wade had 21 for the Heat.
For the Hornets it was all Davis. He has limped through the series with ankle and knee injuries while playing so well that the Heat wonder whether he’s really hurt, and the latest game was his best yet.
The All-Star guard finished 11-for-18 from the field, made three 3-pointers and had seven assists. He needed just nine shots to score 20 points in the first half.
But the Heat increased their defensive pressure in the second half and scored the first six points of the final quarter, including consecutive baskets by Wade, for a 64-63 lead.
By then it appeared the Hornets were losing their cool. Coach Tim Floyd threw a red-faced stomping tantrum in reaction to a traveling call against his team and received a technical.
“We let some opportunities get away from us,” Floyd said.
Miami won despite a big foul disparity for most of the game and the ejection of backup point guard Rafer Alston late in the third quarter when he received his second technical foul after poking David Wesley in the groin.
Alston earlier was involved in a double technical that resulted from a shoving match following a scramble for a loose ball.
“Both teams knew how important this game was,” Odom said. “Both teams were ready to do whatever they had to do to win the game—scratch, cuss,fight, pull, grab, whatever. But we got it done.”
NBA commissioner David Stern attended the game and said he has no idea whether Pat Riley will return to coaching. But Stern said he expects Riley to find any offseason offers tempting. “Fred Astaire danced, and Pat Riley coaches,” Stern said. … The crowd also included Dan Marino and Ricky Williams. … Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said the noon starting time Sunday is less than ideal, but is no alibi if his team loses. “It would be a nice excuse if we were playing at noon and they were playing at 7,” he said. … TheHornets have lost 20 of their past 25 road games.