Saturday , Jun , 03 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Wade, O’Neal lift Heat over Pistons for Finals berth

Miami, FL (Sports Network) – Dwyane Wade battled through flu-like symptoms to
score 14 points and dish out 10 assists, and Shaquille O’Neal came up huge
with 28 points and 16 rebounds, as the Miami Heat advanced to the NBA Finals
for the first time in franchise history with a 95-78 victory over the Detroit
Pistons.

Jason Williams had a near perfect night from the field on the way to 21
points for the Heat, who won the Eastern Conference finals in six games and
will face either Dallas or Phoenix in the title series starting next
Thursday.

Williams made his first 10 shots and went 10-of-12 from the field to carry
the Heat. Miami shot 55.7 percent from the floor, which included a 12-for-14
effort from O’Neal.

“I only celebrate when it’s really over,” O’Neal said. “I’ll celebrate a
little bit, but like I told the guys, the job is not done.”

Wade missed Game 6 of the 2005 East finals against the Pistons with a rib
injury, and the Heat lost the last two contests of the series. This time, the
All-Star guard didn’t let his health prevent him from helping the Heat to
the NBA Finals.

“At 3 a.m. is really when I woke up and I knew I wasn’t going back to sleep. I
tried to do what I can,” Wade said. “My wife was giving me the vapor rub and
everything she could.”

Wade missed the Heat’s morning shootaround and was given intravenous
fluids at a local hospital, but still started Friday’s game. Although he
had just four points by halftime and didn’t come out right away for the
start of the second half, Wade made a big impact late in the third quarter.
He scored 10 points during a late flurry, including Miami’s last eight,
as the Heat took a commanding 72-53 lead going into the fourth and led by
double digits the rest of the way.

Richard Hamilton had 33 points for the Pistons, who lost an elimination game
for just the second time (8-2) since 2004. Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince
each added 10 points, but Detroit shot just 33.3 percent.

“He struggled to get into any flow,” Detroit head coach Flip Saunders said of
Wallace. “He’s one of those guys, we were trying to go to him hoping that he
would. We fell behind so much it really took a little bit out of what we could
do offensively.”

Miami’s Pat Riley became the second head coach in NBA history to lead his team
to the Finals during three different decades. He led the Lakers to the title
series during the 1980’s and then engineered the New York Knicks in the
1990’s.

“I’m just an old codger now,” Riley said. “There’s a lot of guys in that
locker room, a lot of stories in that locker room, and they’re very motivated
about this opportunity.”

Wade shot 5-of-6 from the field in the third before the Pistons made a small
run to get within 13 midway through the fourth. Tony Delk’s layup had Detroit
within 84-71.

The Heat then finished strong. Williams drained a jumper and James Posey hit a
three-pointer to increase the lead to 89-71. Antoine Walker buried another
three, then flashed his trademark celebratory shimmer, as the Heat put the
game away, ahead 92-74 with under three minutes remaining.

Wade left the court to a standing ovation with 1:45 to play, ending a
whirlwind day for the guard.

“I was sick,” Wade said. “Just like anybody else that got the flu, throwing
up. I never really throw up, so it was a change for me. Sore throat, very very
bad.”

The Pistons, who lost to San Antonio in last year’s NBA Finals, were hampered
from the beginning. The Heat 68.8 percent in the opening quarter, compared to
7-of-20 for Detroit, but the Pistons only trailed 25-20 going into the second.

A 10-2 push by Miami moved the advantage to 40-27, with Gary Payton’s layup
capping the spurt with under four minutes left until halftime.

O’Neal had 19 points and nine boards by the break, as Miami built a 47-36
lead. He finished the game with five blocks.

The Pistons, who were trying to get the NBA Finals for the third straight
year, had plenty of shooting problems, most notably Chauncey Billups, who
had nine points on 3-of-14 from the field.

Game Notes

The team that wins the Western Conference will have homecourt advantage in the
NBA Finals…The Pistons had won 11 of their last 13 elimination games and
were 3-0 in such situations entering Friday’s contest. They lost a Game 6 for
the first time since 1991…Miami has won the last 23 postseason games in
which it has led at halftime…Riley has never lost a playoff series (12-0)
when holding a 3-1 series lead…Miami is 8-1 at home in this year’s
playoffs..Walker had 11 points, while Posey had 11 rebounds for Miami, which
outrebounded Detroit, 48-39…The Pistons had just seven turnovers.

DET MIA