for this game

Wade's second-half surge snaps Heat's losing skid

Jan 27, 2008 - 2:36 AM MIAMI (Ticker) -- Already recognized as one of the top scorers in the NBA, it took a defensive play from Dwyane Wade to snap the Miami Heat's 15-game losing streak.

Wade scored 22 of his 35 points in the second half to lead the Heat past the Indiana Packers, 98-96, on Saturday.

The losing streak was the longest in the NBA this season and the second-longest skid in franchise history, just two shy of the team record set back in the Heat's expansion season of 1988-89.

Wade, who entered Saturday as the fifth-leading scorer in the league at 25.0 points per game, was nearly unstoppable on the offensive end in the second half.

But the defense that had been lacking so often during the losing spell made key stops in the final 37 seconds to secure the team's first win since December 22.

"Coach (Pat Riley) has talked about the past four games we could have won (late)," Wade said. "The last 4 1/2 minutes we turned it up a notch defensively and, offensively, we executed."

Holding onto a slim 98-96 lead and following a shot clock violation, the Heat forced Kareem Rush into a tough 3-point attempt. He misfired, but the Pacers gathered the offensive rebound and called a timeout.

As Indiana tried to inbound on its end of the court, Wade jumped in front of the pass and alertly batted the ball to other end of the court, forcing Andre Owens to retrieve the ball deep on the Pacers' end and heave a desperation shot from about 40 feet away as time expired.

"I read the play and I got my hands on it as quick as I could," Wade said.

Mark Blount finished with 19 points for the Heat, who won for just the sixth time in American Airlines Arena this season.

With Miami trailing, 71-62, midway through the third quarter, Wade scored 11 of his 13 third-quarter points during a period-ending 15-6 run, allowing Miami to knot the contest at 77-77.

"The difference was in the third quarter," Indiana coach Jim O'Brien said. "We played very poor defense in the third quarter. They only missed (six) shots in the third and that was the turning point."

The Heat took their first lead since the first quarter when Blount hit a short jumper in the first minute of the fourth as part a quarter-opening 6-0 run to propel Miami to an 83-77 advantage.

Rush hit consecutive jumpers to move the Pacers back to within two at 87-85 with 7:03 remaining, but Wade and Blount scored the next seven points to extend the lead to nine.

The Heat duo combined to score 19 of Miami's 21 fourth-quarter points.

"Mark is one of the only guys who could make an outside shot, so I wanted to keep him on the court," Riley said. "And I think he's developing a real comfort game with Dwyane."

The Pacers stormed back as Rush and Mike Dunleavy Jr. combined for nine points during an 11-4 run that put Indiana within two of the Heat at 98-96 with 39 seconds left in the game, setting the stage for Wade's heroics.

"You want to get it over with," Riley said of the streak. "You just get over it and then you can move on. It doesn't alleviate anything else. Once you get it over with, then you think about it. It lasts for one second."

Just two years removed from winning the franchise's only NBA title, the Heat can now focus on a return to respectability.

"It was so big to break the streak and, hopefully, we can start heading in the right direction again," said Miami forward Dorell Wright, who scored 14 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. "We're just tired of hearing all the (criticism)."

Dunleavy scored 25 points for the Pacers, who fell to 10-16 on the road.

"It just seems like we really shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes when we turn the ball over and the other teams get some momentum and make a run," Dunleavy said. "We just didn't make enough plays to win the game."

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