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Wade's 39 Help Heat Lock Up Home Edge

Associated Press
Wednesday, April 6, 2005; Page D05

The road to the NBA Finals will go through Miami.

Dwyane Wade matched his career-high with 39 points and the Heat easily overcame Shaquille O'Neal's absence last night and beat the visiting Chicago Bulls, 104-86, a win that ensured Miami the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage for the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Vince Carter drives past Cavaliers' Sasha Pavlovic in New Jersey's 110-80 win. Carter finished with 27 points for the Nets, who continued their playoff push. (Tony Dejak -- AP)

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"The only thing we're going to be judged on is the playoffs. Fine; that's the nature of the business," Heat Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "But it's a long season and you've got to take some pride in the accomplishments along the way. . . . To play 82 games better than anybody in your conference is a heck of an accomplishment."

Udonis Haslem added 16 points and 15 rebounds before being ejected late for Miami, which has won 18 straight games at home -- the league's longest run since Sacramento won that many three seasons ago. The last East team to win at least 18 straight at home was Indiana in the 1999-2000 season.

Chicago, seeking its first 10-game winning streak since Michael Jordan's final championship season seven years ago, got 14 points from Andres Nocioni and Ben Gordon, and 13 from Jannero Pargo. Chicago shot 36.4 percent as a team, its fifth-worst performance of the season.

PACERS 97,KNICKS 79: Stephen Jackson celebrated his birthday by scoring 33 points and Indiana beat New York despite a poor shooting night from Reggie Miller in his final appearance at Madison Square Garden.

Miller, who plans to retire after this season, has long tormented the Knicks and their fans -- most notably film director Spike Lee -- with his clutch play in crucial games at the Garden. Last night, however, he went just 3 for 15 and finished with 13 points.

As the clock wound down in the final two minutes, the crowd chanted "Reg-gie, Reg-gie." When the game ended, Miller walked across the court and embraced Lee, who had watched the game from his usual courtside seat.

"It's always been a love-hate relationship" Miller said. "I didn't know what kind of reception I was going to get here tonight. I appreciate all the kind words and all the signs. It means a lot."

The Pacers, with their fourth win in a row, moved ahead of Cleveland in the race for the seventh Eastern Conference playoff spot.

WARRIORS 122, ROCKETS 117: Baron Davis scored 17 of his career-high 40 points in the third quarter and had 13 assists, and Golden State, at home, won its season-best sixth straight game.

Jason Richardson added 20 points, including seven straight during one third-quarter spurt, and five rebounds as the Warriors scored a season high in points to earn another impressive win over a playoff-bound team.

Tracy McGrady had 44 points and seven assists for the struggling Rockets, who have lost three straight and four of six. They need to figure things out in a hurry with only seven games remaining in the regular season to protect their sixth-place spot in the Western Conference standings.

NETS 110, CAVALIERS 80: Vince Carter scored 27 points and New Jersey continued its push for a playoff berth with a rout in Cleveland.

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