Wade sinks winner as the Heat scorch Hornets


MIAMI, Florida, December 29 – Dwyane Wade banked in the game-winning shot with 2.9 seconds remaining Wednesday as the Miami Heat rallied to edge Charlotte 96-95 in a National Basketball Association game.

Playing their second game in as many nights, the star-studded Heat didn’t display the speedy, aggressive attack that saw them post convincing victories over reigning champions Dallas on Sunday and Eastern Conference rivals Boston on Tuesday.

Charlotte leapt to an 11-0 lead and stretched the advantage to 60-45 at halftime.

Wade missed most of the third quarter with a bruised left foot, and he admitted he was surprised coach Erik Spoelstra tabbed him to take the decisive shot since he had scored just eight points while LeBron James poured in 35 on the night.

The Heat improved to 3-0 in the young, lockout-shortened season, and Spoelstra was pleased to see his players fight through adversity.

“It’s good to see us show some resolve, some toughness,” Spoelstra said.

James said the Heat made it more difficult than it needed to be.

“The first half wasn’t Miami Heat basketball,” he said.

Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs, not quite ready to be written off as too old and too slow to claim an NBA crown, routed the Los Angeles Clippers 115-90 Wednesday.

Manu Ginobili scored 24 points, leading six Spurs players who scored in double figures.

DeJuan Blair added 20 and Richard Jefferson chipped in 19. Tony Parker scored 14 points with nine assists, Tim Duncan scored 10 with eight rebounds and James Anderson added 12 off the bench as the Spurs shot 56.3 percent from the field.

The Spurs also made all 15 of their free throws, but coach Gregg Popovich said defense was the real key to the victory.

“Shots went in tonight,” Popovich said. “That’s what happens. Some nights they don’t drop. Tonight the best part of our game was defense.”

And that’s what was lacking for the Clippers, coach Vinny Del Negro said.

“Give San Antonio credit — they were cutting hard, they were moving the basketball, we were very stagnant,” he said. “We weren’t physical. We weren’t contesting shots…

“We played terrible, just from start to finish tonight,” Del Negro said. “We had a little glimpse in the second quarter, I thought we did some good things. But they jumped on us in the third and we were just chasing them the rest of the game.”

The Clippers have been touted as a potential new power in the Western Conference after the arrival of All-Star point guard Chris Paul to team with Blake Griffin, the explosive talent who earned Rookie of the Year honors last season.

Griffin led the Clippers with 28 points, while Paul scored 10 on 3-of-10 shooting.

The Spurs, long a Western Conference force, won 61 games last season but were surprised in the first round of the playoffs by a young, energetic Memphis team, sparking predictions that the team led by 35-year-old Duncan and featuring 34-year-old Ginobili and 29-year-old Parker had passed their prime.

In their first two games of this lockout-shortened season, however, the Spurs have now beaten both Memphis and the Clippers.

San Antonio led by as many as 12 points before Griffin capped a Clippers surge by soaring for a basket that knotted the score at 52-52 late in the second quarter.

A Ginobili three-pointer saw the Spurs take a 58-54 lead at halftime, and San Antonio took firm control in the third period, when they out-scored Los Angeles by 21 points to take a 96-71 lead.

The comfortable victory meant Popovich was able to give his stars some rest. Duncan played 25 minutes, Parker 26 and Ginobili 27.

“You wouldn’t trade it,” Popovich said of the luxury of resting his veterans for significant minutes. It could prove especially important in the hectic, lockout-shortened season. The Spurs were due back in action on Thursday night at Houston.

“It was a good night for us, and to get some rest was surely welcome,” Popovich said.