MIAMI -- After a preseason where Miami routinely faced huge deficits, then endured a 42-point loss to Chicago on opening night, Heat coach Pat Riley wondered if his team was on the cusp of a crisis.
Shaquille O'Neal doesn't think that's the case.
"Bad things that happen to us," O'Neal said, "will only make us stronger."
No reigning titleholder had ever opened a year with consecutive home losses, but this win wasn't decided until the final moments - and went Miami's way thanks largely to Gary Payton and James Posey's late efforts.
Posey hit two crucial 3-pointers in the final minutes and finished with 10 points, while Payton, who had 14 points, also hit a late 3 to preserve the Heat's fledgling lead. And then Wade helped seal it, ducking behind Jason Kidd, taking a perfect pass from Payton and scoring for an 86-82 lead.
"We didn't perform the way we wanted to," Wade said, "but this team always responds."
Vince Carter had 27 points for New Jersey, including a short jumper from the left baseline to tie the game at 73 with 5:56 left.
"We were in a good position the last 6 minutes of the game, with a chance to win the game," Carter said. "We felt like we were right there. Two big 3 by, I think, Posey and G.P. made us play catch-up."
Indeed, Posey hit a 3-pointer on Miami's next possession -- with the shot clock down to :02 - and the Heat stayed ahead the rest of the way.
"That was a little bit of the team I remember," Riley said.
The Heat avoided becoming the sixth defending NBA champion to start a season 0-2, and looked nothing like the group that got embarrassed by the Bulls on the night they received their championship rings.
O'Neal said the emotions of the pregame ceremony doomed Miami in that one.
"It's hard to go from happy-jolly to kill 'em all," said O'Neal, who was 10-of-16 from the field to make amends for Tuesday's seven-point, five-rebound effort against Chicago.
Kidd, who had a triple-double in New Jersey's season-opener, had nine points, nine rebounds and three assists.
"Our guys gave a very good effort," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "We got the game in the last 6 minutes where it was tied and could go either way."
Miami led 43-41 at halftime, closing the second quarter on a 13-5 run and doing it all with Wade benched by three fouls.
In the third, Miami used another 13-5 run to build a 65-62 lead going into the final 12 minutes.
New Jersey led 57-52 when Krstic hit a jumper, but the Nets made only two of their next eight shots -- while O'Neal had eight points in the quarter to help Miami take the lead again. And in the fourth, the balanced effort got it done for the Heat.
"We just didn't do a good job of closing it out," Jefferson said.
|Shaquille O'Neal makes life difficult for Jason Collins, as he hits 10-of-16 shots from the field. (AP)|
|New Jersey (1-1)||24||17||21||23||85|
|Miami (1-1) «||21||22||22||26||91|
|NJ:V. Carter 27 Pts
NJ:J. Kidd 9 Reb
NJ:V. Carter 4 Ast
|MIA:S. O'Neal 21 Pts
MIA:S. O'Neal 9 Reb
MIA:G. Payton 5 Ast
|Players of the Game|
|V. Carter, SF||43||11-23||3-3||4||4||2||27|
|N. Krstic, C||38||7-11||6-6||6||0||2||20|
|R. Jefferson, SG||37||4-15||3-4||8||2||1||11|
|J. Kidd, PG||35||2-7||3-3||9||3||1||9|
|J. Collins, C||31||0-2||2-4||2||0||5||2|
|B. Nachbar, SF||16||1-5||0-0||2||1||3||3|
|M. Williams, PG||16||2-7||0-0||3||2||3||4|
|A. Wright, SG||13||2-5||2-2||6||0||2||7|
|M. Moore, C||10||1-2||0-0||0||0||2||2|
|C. Robinson, PF||Did Not Play|
|J. McInnis, PG||Did Not Play|
|E. House, PG||Did Not Play|
|M. Ilic, C||Did Not Play|
|H. Adams, SG||Did Not Play|
|J. Boone, PF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|G. Payton, PG||41||4-9||4-5||4||5||4||14|
|S. O'Neal, C||36||10-16||1-3||9||1||3||21|
|A. Walker, PF||33||5-11||1-2||6||2||0||11|
|U. Haslem, PF||32||3-8||2-2||9||2||3||8|
|D. Wade, PG||30||6-13||4-5||3||5||5||17|
|J. Posey, SF||27||3-6||2-2||2||1||1||10|
|D. Wright, SF||16||1-5||0-0||5||1||3||2|
|J. Kapono, SF||15||2-4||2-2||5||0||0||6|
|A. Mourning, C||11||1-4||0-2||3||0||3||2|
|M. Doleac, C||Did Not Play|
|J. Williams, PG||Did Not Play|
|E. Barron, C||Did Not Play|
|W. Simien, PF||Did Not Play|
|C. Quinn, PG||Did Not Play|
|R. Hite, SG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|