EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Heat didn't bother with the suspense this time. Miami didn't leave much to chance in the second half on the way to holding off the Nets 99-89 Monday at the IZOD Center.
With the victory, the Heat (37-34) maintained its grip on the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. It also helped the Nets extend their franchise-record losing streak at home to 14 consecutive games.
Dwyane Wade and Jermaine O'Neal got the Heat going early, but things didn't really start to go Miami's way until the supporting cast of Michael Beasley, Dorell Wright and Carlos Arroyo pitched in with big-time plays in the second half.
The Heat trailed 53-52 at the half, but took control in the third quarter and maintained a double-digit lead midway through the fourth quarter to cruise to the victory.
Arroyo ran the team with confidence and even had enough swagger to shout down Wade on a play in the fourth. Beasley, who got chewed out by coach Erik Spoelstra for taking an ill-advised jumper, responded down the stretch by taking everything to the rim. Dorell Wright offered the energy to lift the Heat out of its lethargic start. It was a team win. Yes, it was bit harder than it should have been against the Nets.
But what else is new with this Heat team?
D. WADE'S DOINGS: The bad news: Wade banged up his right knee/lower thigh late in the third quarter and admitted after the game that he lost quite a bit of his lift by the time he returned to finish the game. The good news: The Heat has two days off before he'll be asked to display his heroics again when the Heat's three-game trip continues Thursday in Chicago. Wade was far from his defensive best at the start of Monday's game. In fact, Courtney Lee tortured him on several plays on the way to a 13-point outburst in the first. But that seemed to wake Wade up. He then proceeded to pick apart the Nets for 27 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. Wade simply embarrassed his defenders on several plays down the stretch. The one that sticks on the mind was that lethal move to the basket, when he dribbled behind his back, split two defenders and scored off the glass. Wade then shot a long look and smile over at the apparent Nets fan who wore that bag over his head in the courtside seats.
TURNING POINT: A lethargic first half left the Heat trailing 53-52. But Miami got going in the third quarter and outscored the Nets by 13 to carry a double-digit lead into the fourth. Arroyo found his jumper in the third to help Wade and O'Neal. The Heat also suffocated the Nets defensively.
WINNING/LOSING EDGE: It's rare when the Heat wins the transition battle against any team. But it outscored the Nets 15-5 in fastbreak points. The best play of the night came on Arroyo's lob pass to Wade on to complete an alley-oop in the third quarter.
HEAD-SCRATCHER: I know the Nets are bad. But the fans in the metro area should be ashamed of themselves for the embarrassing attendance. At tipoff Monday, there literally were as many arena workers, media members and team members as there were fans. As if that wasn't enough, the Nets were working with their third coach in as many games against the Heat this season. Lawrence Frank coached the first game against the Heat. Kiki Vandeweghe coached the second. And with Kiki out of town tending to a family issue Monday, the Nets went with assistant John Loyer against Miami. I know what you're thinking. John Who?
KEY CONTRIBUTION: O'Neal returned from a sprained left ankle to put up another solid performance. He finished with 25 points, but scored 14 in the first half to get the Heat going. His legs were back. Just consider the first-half flush he had against the entire Nets frontline. When Jermaine's dunking, the Heat is usually doing big things. He certainly has saved his best for the season's stretch run. Of course, he's also playing for that next contract. Still, O'Neal clearly has emerged ahead of Michael Beasley as the Heat's second option on offense. He's handled this type of role before. It might be best for Beasley as well.
NEXT UP: Heat at Chicago Bulls, Thursday 8 p.m. United Center
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