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Miami's X-Factors Cross Out New Jersey

Heat 104, Nets 87

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 27, 2005; Page D03

MIAMI, April 26 -- The New Jersey Nets knew coming into this series they would be tested by Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade, known as Superman and Flash, respectively and fittingly. But who figured they would have such trouble keeping up with the Joneses? Who would have guessed center Alonzo Mourning, the former Net who as recently as two weeks ago played third-string center, would lead the Miami Heat in points rather than cheers?

O'Neal enjoyed this, breaking into laughter occasionally from his frequent courtside seat. Still recovering from a bruised thigh, O'Neal played just 26 minutes and scored 14 points. It didn't matter. His buddy Wade scored 17 but missed all seven shots he took in the third quarter. Didn't matter. Miami grew its lead by eight points during that period. The Heat never trailed, rarely strained. The Nets couldn't decide whom to guard.

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In defeating the New Jersey by a 104-87 score to take a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven, first-round playoff series, the Heat got its biggest boosts from places New Jersey never thought to look.

Nets Coach Lawrence Frank, who revamped his game plan after the Heat scored 116 Sunday in Game 1, might consider trading in his clipboard for a Ouija board as the series moves to East Rutherford, N.J., on Thursday.

"We really adjust well," Miami forward Eddie Jones said. "We have the types of players on this team that can adjust to any kind of situation. Whatever the defense is doing, we try to do something different."

There was Mourning, who hasn't played at an all-star level since learning he had kidney disease more than four years ago, not only tallying a season-high 21 points, but also collecting nine rebounds in 16 minutes against his former team. And, oh yes, he all but single-handedly restored the Heat's lead after the Nets closed to within 11 in the fourth quarter.

Mourning, who left the game to a standing ovation, also had the unofficial lead in flexing, snarling, fist-throwing and foot-stomping as he dominated the organization that he left on poor terms via a December trade.

"I haven't forgotten how to play this game -- I just had a kidney transplant," Mourning said. "I've made a tremendous amount of sacrifices over a period of time. This is the reward, playing on this stage with this group of guys."

There was also the suddenly beloved Jones, as recently as a few months ago despised by Miami fans for his unreliability, drawing chants of "Eddie! Eddie!" for an assortment of excellence: He dunked, he hit outside shots, he drew charges, he held Vince Carter to 21 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Jones finished with 14 points and six rebounds.

"Really a highlight for me tonight was hearing our arena in the playoffs chanting his name," Miami Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "It's the kind of recognition he's deserved for a long, long time in this city, but for some reason it hasn't happened."

There was Miami's other Jones, Damon, hitting 4 of 6 three-pointers -- giving him 11 of 15 in the series -- for 14 points.

And Keyon Dooling, a backup guard, propelled Miami during a first quarter in which it took command for good. He hit all four field goals he tried and scored 10.

"I don't think [our] scoring is a problem," Carter said. "It's just limiting them. . . . We still believe that we can make this a contest."

Wade hit only 6 of 17 field goals as New Jersey sent defenders swarming his way. He compensated with 10 assists. Miami also dominated in rebounding with a 47-38 advantage.

New Jersey got 27 points from rookie center Nenad Krstic, who took advantage of the attention Miami paid to Carter. The Nets shot 35.9 percent.

"Our intent is for the most part right," Frank said. "Sometimes the shots fall, sometimes they don't. We've just got to continue to do a better job at the defensive end."

As if Sunday's game never ended, the Heat converted 9 of 15 shots in the first period -- 60 percent -- to fly out to a 26-16 lead. By midway through a second quarter that was led off by Kidd's three-pointer, New Jersey had climbed to within 32-30. For precisely 16 seconds, it looked like a new game. But then Eddie Jones hit a three-pointer. And Caron Butler followed with a 15-footer.

And then Wade gathered in a length-of-the-court pass from O'Neal and, without a dribble, went under the hoop for a reverse dunk that sent the crowd into delirium. Damon Jones added a three-pointer on the Heat's next possession to extend Miami's lead to 12. The 10-point blitz came in fewer than two minutes.

The Nets wouldn't get closer than nine the rest of the night.

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