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Wade saves Heat again

Miami guard stellar in fourth

Dwyane Wade arrived at the arena last night in Miami with a freshly shaved head, a first for the dapper superstar.

''It's the playoffs," Wade said of his new 'do. ''I don't want to be worried about how I look."

Whatever the reason, Wade looked wonderful again for the Miami Heat.

Playing with a sore calf, Wade hit a spinning jumper with 1:04 left to halt a frantic Chicago rally, then blocked Ben Gordon's layup 38 seconds later to help the Heat beat the Bulls, 115-108, to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.

Jason Williams and Shaquille O'Neal each scored 22 points for the Heat, with Wade getting 21 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals. Miami held a 20-point lead in the third quarter and saw it trimmed to four with 1:15 left, but Wade's heroics down the stretch ensured the Heat wouldn't suffer an epic collapse.

''We played at a real high level again," Heat coach Pat Riley said. ''Tremendous amount of energy, spirit and ball movement, but we didn't finish. That disturbs me and it should disturb our players after working so hard and playing so well."

Antoine Walker -- who played the first 40:20 without a rest, filling in for the suspended Udonis Haslem -- added 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who also got 12 points from James Posey and 11 from Gary Payton.

Andres Nocioni led all scorers with 30 points -- on 13-for-15 shooting -- for Chicago. Kirk Hinrich had 17 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter for the Bulls, who will host Game 3 on Thursday night.

''We made it interesting again at the end," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said, ''but pretty much got dominated again from beginning to end."

Walker scored off an offensive rebound with 8:12 left, giving Miami a 102-84 lead -- and a two-game series lead seemed all but certain.

Five minutes later, those prospects were precarious, at best.

Hinrich hit three straight jumpers -- a personal 7-0 run -- to get the Bulls within 102-91 with 4:52 left, and he scored 4 more points in what was a 13-2 Chicago burst that cut Miami's lead to 104-97 with 3:00 left.

Wade found Walker for a layup at the 2:46 mark, and hit a jumper 59 seconds later to push Miami's lead back to 108-99. Once again, the Bulls weren't done: Hinrich scored, and after Wade missed from the same spot he'd hit from one possession earlier, Nocioni hit a 3-pointer with 1:15 left that got Chicago within 4.

But Wade scored on the next trip, Nocioni threw the ball away on Chicago's next possession, and Miami could soon exhale.

Clippers 98, Nuggets 87 -- Cuttino Mobley scored 21 points, Elton Brand had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and host Los Angeles took command early in beating Denver for a 2-0 lead in the first round of the playoffs.

The best-of-seven series moves to Denver for Game 3 Thursday night and Game 4 Saturday night.

The Clippers, in the postseason for the first time in nine years, blew a 10-point lead in the last four minutes before winning the opener 89-87. With seven of their 12 active players making their postseason debuts, there was a case for playoff jitters down the stretch.

There were no such problems in Game 2.

Teams taking 2-0 leads in the NBA playoffs have won 176 times in 186 opportunities -- 94.6 percent. So at least on paper, things look bad for the Nuggets, in jeopardy of being eliminated in the first round for a third straight year.

The Clippers shot 47.5 percent to Denver's 34 percent. Los Angeles is 28-1 when holding the opposition under 40 percent this season. Sam Cassell had 13 points and 11 assists, Corey Maggette scored 12, and Chris Kaman and Quinton Ross each added 10 for the Clippers.

Marcus Camby led the Nuggets with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony, who played less than 6 1/2 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, scored all of his 16 points in the second half. Greg Buckner, Andre Miller, and Earl Boykins added 14 points apiece for Denver.

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