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Heat turn back Cavs in OT

Associated Press • Apr 6, 2007 at 12:00 PM

CLEVELAND - Bumped and bruised, but playoff bound. The Miami Heat will officially defend their NBA title.

Antoine Walker and Shaquille O'Neal scored 20 points apiece and the Heat clinched a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs Thursday night, beating Cleveland 94-90 in overtime to drop the Cavaliers three places in the postseason seedings.

With Dwyane Wade watching from the bench in street clothes but nearing a return from his dislocated shoulder, the first-place Heat, who not long ago teetered on missing the playoffs because of injuries, moved 1½ games ahead of Washington in the Southeast Division.

Walker made six 3-pointers and Alonzo Mourning had a big block in the final minute of overtime. Jason Williams stole a pass by LeBron James with 27 seconds left and made three free throws in the last 24 for Miami.

James, who didn't hide his frustration several times, scored 35 with nine rebounds and five assists. Drew Gooden had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who fell from second place to fifth in the Eastern Conference.

If the playoffs started tomorrow, Miami and Cleveland would meet in the first round - not the matchup the Cavaliers would want. The Heat, though, would welcome playing anyone after being without O'Neal for the first 32 games this season and losing Wade for the past 22.

The Cavaliers outscored the Heat 11-0 to force OT, but couldn't come up with a big play in the extra five minutes when they needed one. Cleveland's run came after James stormed to the bench and kicked over a chair.

As they did in winning their first title a year ago, the Heat were clutch when it mattered most.

Jason Kapono, the NBA's leading 3-point shooter and long-range champion at this year's All-Star Game, hit a 3-pointer with 1:23 left to give the Heat an 88-87 lead. On Cleveland's next possession, Sasha Pavlovic had a layup blocked by Mourning.

Cleveland had a final chance to win in regulation, but James couldn't find anyone open after being double teamed and had to force a 3-pointer that clanked off the front of the rim as the horn sounded.

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