Heat sinks Nets into a big hole

Associated Press
Published April 29, 2005

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The ball bounced Vince Carter's way. The game didn't.

One of the luckiest shots of Carter's career - it bounced five or six times off the backboard and rim before dropping through to force a second overtime - couldn't keep the Nets from losing 108-105 to the Miami Heat on Thursday night.

Carter's shot was something, a 21-footer from the corner that ricocheted every which way before going in. But it ended up being the Nets' final magic moment.

"I had missed a 3 earlier and I wanted another opportunity, and I got lucky," Carter said. "We were fortunate it gave us a new life."

That life lasted five more minutes, and the problem confronting New Jersey is one no NBA team has solved: overcoming a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series.

Miami can complete a sweep Sunday.

Shaquille O'Neal had his best game of the series with 25 points, Udonis Haslem had the final go-ahead basket among his 14 points and 19 rebounds, Dwyane Wade had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Eddie Jones scored 20 for the Heat.

Carter scored 36 and Richard Jefferson 23, and Jason Kidd had 16 points, 13 assists and 16 rebounds for the Nets, whose best chance to win came at the end of regulation when Kidd had an open shot from 3-point range.

But he couldn't connect, and Carter's crazy bounce only ended up prolonging the eventual loss. Haslem's putback made it 104-102 with 1:26 left, and Clifford Robinson's missed 3 and Jefferson's blown layup helped seal it.

The Nets made 3 of 23 3-pointers and missed nine free throws in 27 attempts. Miami made 10 of 22 3s to help overcome 16 missed free throws in 38 attempts.

"Man, this team is very resilient," said Heat center Alonzo Mourning, who grabbed a key rebound late in the second overtime. "This just shows the toughness and character of this team in digging out a win like this."

Carter's corner jumper at the end of the first overtime rolled around the iron, bounced high off the glass, came down and bounced four more times on the rim before dropping through to tie it at 99.

"I thought once it hit every piece of the rim and fell in, we had another opportunity, and any time you have an opportunity like that against a team like Miami you have to take advantage of it," Kidd said.

MAVS 106, ROCKETS 102: Playing with the desperation of a team facing elimination, even though it wasn't, Dallas clawed its way back into the series.

It took a rejuvenated Dirk Nowitzki to save it.

Nowitzki emerged from a two-game slump to score 28, and he keyed a 17-0 fourth-quarter run that deflated Houston in Game 3.

Michael Finley scored 20, Jerry Stackhouse added 18 and Josh Howard had five big points in the late comeback, ending the Rockets' nine-game win streak and finally giving the Mavericks confidence they can keep up.

Trailing 88-80 early in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks seemed on their way to a 3-0 deficit. But Finley hit a jumper, Nowitzki dunked on a fast break, Finley sank a 3 and Jason Terry made two free throws to retake the lead midway through the quarter.

PACERS 99, CELTICS 76: Reggie Miller had no sympathy for Boston. He didn't need favorable treatment from the officials, either.

Miller scored 33, 15 in the fourth quarter, and host Indiana pulled away to take a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 is in Indianapolis on Saturday night, and the series will return to Boston on Tuesday.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said this week that Miller may be getting "sympathy calls" from the officials as he makes his final NBA tour before retiring.

The Pacers star, 39, had his usual flops, trying to draw fouls as he went up for shots, but it wasn't his theatrics or the officials' treatment that doomed the Celtics.

Miller hit his first two shots, a big 3-pointer that put Indiana in control in the first quarter and another 3 during a 17-3 run that broke the game open with less than six minutes left.