Heat back in East finals after ousting Nets
MIAMI (MCT) -- Call it five the hard way.
But after several harrowing moments Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, including a singular scoring binge by Joe Johnson, the Heat are finally done with the Brooklyn Nets.
Down for almost all of the second half, the Heat rallied for a 96-94 escape that pushed them into the Eastern Conference finals for the fourth consecutive year.
"To be in this position four years in a row, this is the reason we came together," guard Dwyane Wade said. "We're a team that doesn't take it for granted."
Finally, after the Nets fumbled away the games' final possession, the Heat could exhale. Briefly.
"We still have some business to take care of," forward LeBron James said. "But it's great to put ourselves in a position to get to where we want to go."
Next up for the Heat are the Indiana Pacers or Washington Wizards.
"We said the No. 1 key in this series would be great mental stability," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, with exactly that required for the Heat to close out the Nets 4-1 in the best-of-seven series. "Our guys were the strongest when we were down at the end."
The decisive shot was a Ray Allen corner 3-pointer with 32 seconds to play, part of a closing 13-3 run.
"We did what we needed to do, when we had to do it," Allen said.
The Heat held on after that shot on a night Wade took care of the Heat offense early and James handled it late, with a little 3-point help from center Chris Bosh.
"They made plays, they made shots, and we didn't," Nets coach Jason Kidd.
Johnson led the Nets with 34 points, with James scoring 29 for the Heat and Wade adding 28. Center Chris Bosh, who struggled on the boards but thrived from the 3-point line, added 16 points for the Heat.
Of stepping up with a pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers after earlier struggles, Bosh said, "Gotta keep it cool. Gotta breathe."
For the Nets, it's over, the $180 million-plus spent on payroll and luxury tax yielding a grand total of five playoff wins.
"We let it slip away," guard Deron Williams said. "These last two [games] are really hard to take right now."
The Nets' approach was clear from the out: Anybody but James, who scored 49 in Monday's Game 4 victory at Barclays Center.
"I figured they would do that coming off the explosion I had in Game 4," James said.
That's where Wade helped get him going, with 20 points in the first half.
"I just took it upon myself to be very aggressive," Wade said. "In the second half, I didn't have to be as aggressive."
Should the Pacers win Thursday's Game 6 in Washington, the Eastern Conference finals would open Sunday at 3:30 p.m. in Indiana. Otherwise, the Eastern Conference finals would open Tuesday.
The Heat opened the fourth quarter with 3-pointers from Rashard Lewis and James to move within 75-72, starting the period without a point guard in the lineup. But with Johnson scoring on a driving runner and Paul Pierce following up with a 3-pointer, the Nets were back to an 82-73 lead with 8:11 left.
It wasn't over.
With a pair of James free throws and a Bosh 3-pointer, the Heat moved back within 82-78.
From there, seemingly every time the Heat made a move, Johnson came back with a basket, even with James moving over on the defensive assignment.
"In the fourth quarter, Joe gave me everything I wanted," James said. "He was torching me."
With 2:48 left, James then converted a 3-pointer that drew the Heat within 91-86.
Later, with 2:07 to play, Bosh secured his first rebound of the game, with Wade scoring on the other end to draw the Heat within 91-88.
After a stop, the Heat got James to the line, where he made both foul shots to improve to 14 of 15 from the line and bring the Heat within 91-90.
The Heat then worked a set where James dished to point guard Mario Chalmers, who found Allen in the left corner with what Spoelstra called a "corkscrew" pass for a 3-pointer that put them up 93-91 with 32 seconds to play.
Chalmers saw the assist differently.
"It was a good pass," he said.
It was all Allen needed.
"Ray's three was the result of thousands of hours practicing that shot," Spoelstra said.
After forcing a miss by Nets guard Shaun Livingston, the Heat got the ball to Allen, who was fouled and made a pair of free throws with 21.6 seconds to play.
The Nets then got a second-chance 3-pointer from Johnson to close within 95-94 with 11.4 seconds left.
James then was fouled, missing the first attempt but making the second for a 96-94 Heat lead with 9.5 seconds to play, leading the Nets to call their final timeout.
The Heat then forced the Nets into a scramble, with the ball going out of bounds off the Heat in front of the Heat bench with 5 seconds to play. The Nets' possession was confirmed by video replay.
The Nets, without a timeout, used the break to set up a play, with the Heat again knocking the ball out of bounds.