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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Finally, a Finals for Miami
HEAT 95, PISTONS 78: With Wade ailing, O'Neal cures all with 28 points to oust Detroit.
By TIMES WIRES
Published June 3, 2006
MIAMI - A year ago, the Miami Heat simply wasn't good enough. Shaquille O'Neal knew it. Dwyane Wade knew it.
So Pat Riley fixed it.
And now, the Heat heads to the NBA Finals for the first time.
O'Neal had 28 points and 16 rebounds and Wade - who spent part of Friday in a hospital battling dehydration and flu-like symptoms - added 14 points as the Heat ended the Detroit Pistons' two-year reign as Eastern Conference champions with an 95-78 win.
"Our guys came tonight and put the hammer down," said Riley, the Heat's president and coach. "Period."
His superstars didn't have to do it alone. Jason Williams, one of Riley's prized and numerous offseason additions, came up huge with Wade lagging in Game 6, scoring 21 points on 10-for-12 shooting.
The Heat now awaits either Dallas or Phoenix in the Finals, which start Thursday.
"We know right now, we still have a job ahead of us," Heat forward James Posey, another newcomer - like Gary Payton and Antoine Walker, two title-starved veterans - brought in last summer by Riley in a quest to surround his big guns with extra firepower. "We're not going to get too high right now. We're not going to get too low. Four more wins - that's the most important thing."
The party started early. Wade walked off with 1:45 left, right index finger raised before he slapped Riley's hand. And after the final second ticked off, white streamers fell from the ceiling as the Heat players waved championship caps and T-shirts. Soon, though, O'Neal issued an expected warning.
"We're not done," he said.
Richard Hamilton had 33 points for Detroit, which finished the regular season with an NBA-best 64-18 record and came in confident after ending Miami's season here a year ago in Game 7 - in part because Wade and O'Neal were battling injury.
Wade clearly wasn't at his best Friday, but O'Neal was. Hence, the difference. He made 12 of 14 shots, making sure this chance wouldn't slip away.
"Miami played great," Hamilton said. "They deserved it."
Detroit only shot 33 percent in the game, with Billups going 3-for-14 and Rasheed Wallace going 4-for-12. The Pistons were outrebounded 48-39 and, perhaps most telling, let the Heat shoot 56 percent from the floor - after insisting that defense would be their top priority.
"We didn't play how we play," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said.
Wade was 1-for-6 with four points in the first half. Didn't matter. O'Neal and Williams more than carried the early scoring load, helping stake Miami to an 47-36 lead at intermission.
O'Neal was 9-for-11 from the field for 19 points in the opening two quarters, his biggest first-half effort so far in these playoffs. And Williams - who was 13-for-30 from the floor in the first five games - was 5-for-5 in the half, the last of those a jumper with 4:14 left that gave Miami a 38-27 lead.
WESTERN CONFERENCE: Suns in familiar spot
The Suns have played their best when they were on the brink of playoff elimination. Well, here they are again.
The Mavericks, riding a 50-point night by Dirk Nowitzki on Thursday, lead the West final 3-2 and can eliminate the Suns in Game 6 tonight in Phoenix.
Phoenix has already come from 3-1 down to beat the Lakers in the first round and survived a Game 7 against the Clippers in the second round. This time, the Suns must win two in a row against the Mavs, who are seeking their first NBA Finals berth.
"We can do it again, I hope," said Suns coach Mike D'Antoni, whose team is 4-0 in elimination games in these playoffs. "Obviously that's the only choice we have right now."
KINGS HIRE MUSSELMAN:
After a search that lasted nearly four weeks, the Kings will hire Eric Musselman as their head coach, choosing the Grizzlies assistant to replace Rick Adelman. The team was still working on contract details.
WNBA: Comets still streaking
Tina Thompson scored 23 points to lead host Houston to its fourth straight victory, 71-60 over Chicago.
The Comets won the first meeting between the teams and improved to 2-0 on a three-game homestand. They have not trailed at any point in 15 consecutive quarters.LYNX 92, FEVER 87:
Rookie Seimone Augustus scored a season-high 31 points and Amber Jacobs scored a career-high 16 as host Minnesota beat Indiana Fever 92-87.