MIAMI — For some reason, the New Jersey Nets weren't ready to let their
forgettable season end.
Not in regulation.
Or after one overtime, either.
After that … well, Mario Chalmers decided to put the Nets out of
Chalmers opened the scoring in the second OT, then found Yakhouba
Diawara for a banked-in 3-pointer with 2:27 left and the Miami Heat
pulled away to finally clinch the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference
playoffs by beating the Nets 94-86 on Wednesday night — handing New
Jersey its 70th and final loss of the year.
Miami (47-35), the No. 5 seed for the second straight season, gets
Boston in the opening round of the playoffs.
Michael Beasley had 25 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out,
Chalmers finished with 15 and Dorell Wright and James Jones each
scored 11 for Miami, which wasted a 13-point lead in the fourth
Yi Jianlian scored 23 points and pulled down 15 rebounds for New
Jersey (12-70), which erased a 12-point deficit in the final 6:48 of
regulation. Courtney Lee scored 17, Brook Lopez had 12 and
Devin Harris 10 for New Jersey.
The Heat chose to rest Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem with
an array of minor injuries, and Jermaine O'Neal sat while
continuing to recover from an ankle problem. None of the issues are
expected to affect their availability for Game 1 of the playoffs, and
O'Neal insisted he would be ready for practice by Friday.
"Now we can prepare for the playoffs, something that we're all excited
about," Wade said.
Sparked by a long 3-pointer from former Heat guard Chris Quinn,
the Nets went on a 19-7 run to close regulation and the teams went into
overtime tied at 78.
By then, the scenarios were simple.
A Miami win, the Heat would get Boston in the first round and the Nets
would lose No. 70.
A Miami loss and the Heat would see Atlanta for the second straight year
in the opening round.
Bring on Boston.
Miami's 47 wins rank as the seventh-best total in franchise history, and
the most since the 2005-06 team won 52 on its way to claiming the NBA
It's the sixth time in Wade's seven seasons that the Heat made the
playoffs, something plenty of so-called experts said wouldn't happen
back when the year began. Proving those critics wrong became a bit of a
rallying cry for Miami this season, especially over the final seven
weeks, when the Heat started playing their best basketball.
So now, it's off to Boston … and there will be doubters once again.
The Heat are 1-11 in their last 12 games against the Celtics, the one
win coming in a game where neither Rajon Rondo nor Kevin
Garnett played and Miami still had to rally in the second half.
Miami went 0-3 against Boston this season, losing by seven, six and five
points. It's the first time the Heat and Celtics will meet in the
Miami finished the season with wins in 18 of its last 22 games; the
Celts lost seven of their final 10 to end the regular season.
For the Nets, there was just relief that the worst season in franchise
history is over.
"It was not a good year for us," said forward Chris Douglas-Roberts , "not at all."
The first sign of trouble, fittingly, came for New Jersey on opening
night, when the Nets blew a 19-point lead, got outscored 31-15 in the
fourth quarter and lost to Minnesota. That was the first of 18 straight
defeats to begin the year, costing coach Lawrence Frank his job.
The Nets seemed capable of bumping the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers out of
the record books by losing more than 73 games.
In the end, it'll go down as 12-70 for New Jersey, not bad enough for
ignominy, but a year to certainly forget.
The only other teams in NBA history to lose 70 games, besides
Philadelphia's 9-73 club, are Dallas (11-71, 1992-93), Denver (11-71,
1997-98) and the Los Angeles Clippers (12-70, 1986-87).
Much like the Heat, the Nets expect to have a much different look next
Miami and New Jersey are two of the teams with plenty of salary-cap room
to utilize during the expected free agent bonanza this summer, and the
Nets have made no secret that they are hoping for immediate upgrades.
They had plenty of chances Wednesday night.
In the end, a season marked by losses ended — naturally — with
Heat F Quentin Richardson will be in the playoffs for just
the second time in his 10 seasons. He went to the Western Conference
finals with Phoenix in 2005. … New Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon
Marshall was at the game, sporting a Florida Marlins cap. … Quinn
and Keyon Dooling, both former Heat players, spent plenty of
time greeting friends before the game.
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