CHARLOTTE, April 4 – Dwyane Wade scored 27 points and handed out 10 assists Friday as the Miami Heat secured a National Basketball playoff berth with a 97-92 victory over Charlotte.
The Heat’s latest playoff run follows their dismal 15-win campaign last season, making them just the second team after the 1968-69 San Diego Rockets to reach the playoffs after going 15-67 the season before.
"This is a big step for the franchise, to get back and matter again after a frustrating season last year," said first-year Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who took over after Pat Riley resigned to concentrate on his role as team president.
"We don’t want to stop with this, obviously. It is significant. It doesn’t happen often."
The Heat had to rally to do it, erasing an early 15-point deficit to avoid a third straight defeat.
Wade drained three free throws in the final 19 seconds, and the Bobcats’ Raymond Felton missed a potential game-tying three-pointer with five seonds to play.
After injuries to Wade, Alonzo Mourning and Udonis Haslem doomed Miami last season, the Heat have been relatively healthy.
"It’s the first time in a long time someone has come from where we came from to get to where we’re at this year,"
Haslem said. "It just says a lot about the guys here last year who came back with a chip on their shoulder. It says a lot about guys who came in this year and got with the program."
But the victory didn’t come without a price. Haslem slashed his thumb late in the third quarter attempting to block a shot and needed six stitches. He could miss the last six games of the regular season.
Michael Beasley and center Jermaine O’Neal both left the game with twisted ankles but returned.
It was a costly defeat for Charlotte, who fell two games behind Chicago for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth.