MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade watched the three-pointer drop perfectly through the net, then turned upcourt and extended the fingers on his right hand.
And he screamed.
"In kid-friendly terms," Wade would say later, "I was telling him he was hot."
That hand -- that player -- had never been hotter in a post-season game, either. And that's why Miami's season isn't over.
Playing what might have been his final game in Miami, Wade scored 46 points, 30 in the second half -- both franchise records -- and the Heat beat the Boston Celtics 101-92 on Sunday in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference first-round series. He made 16-of-24 shots, 5 of 7 from three-point range, and outscored the Celtics 19-15 in the fourth quarter.
"Phenomenal," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
"Greatness," offered Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
Heat forward Quentin Richardson went even further, likening his teammate to a superhero.
"Sometimes, you know, he puts on the cape, man," Richardson said. "There's not a lot of things you can do when he's playing that way."
Boston would concur.
The Celtics still lead the best-of-seven 3-1, and get a chance to close it out in Boston on Tuesday night. But their worst fear came true Sunday.
Miami has hope.
"They did what they were supposed to do, which is defend the home court," Celtics forward Kevin Garnett said. "And now we're thinking the same thing going back home."
Richardson scored 20 points and Michael Beasley added 15 for the Heat, who wasted an 18-point, first-half lead before digging deep to extend the season.
Rajon Rondo led the Celtics with 23 points. Garnett had 18 points and 12 rebounds, Paul Pierce scored 16 and Ray Allen added 15 for Boston, which was bidding for its first 4-0 sweep of a series since 1986.
"It's not a big deal," Rondo said. "We just have to close it out now in five. We're confident."
So is Miami.
Leg cramps kept him off the court for the deciding moment of Game 3, the jumper that Pierce hit at the buzzer to give the Celtics a 100-98 win. So he spent Saturday getting his body right, chugging fluids, jumping into the cold tank, hanging out in the pool with his mother Jolinda, visiting from Chicago.
On Sunday, it showed, never more than down the stretch.
He shot 5-for-6 in the fourth quarter and made all four three-pointers, all coming in a five-minute stretch and the last putting Miami up 93-82 with 6:12 remaining.
"I just thought, time to be aggressive," Wade said. "Very aggressive. So I was shooting all those shots, no matter what was going to happen. And I started to make a couple, so I got hot at the right time. Just wanted to will my team to this victory."
Of course, it's never easy for Miami against Boston.
The Celtics were 6-0 against Miami this season, and had won 14 of the last 15 between the clubs since April 2007. And yes, Boston made a big run, getting within 96-92 on a free throw by Allen with 2:36 left.
Then a funny thing happened.
Or, more precisely, three funny things.
Not only did Allen -- a 91 per cent foul shooter this season -- miss the second, he missed two more with 1:50 left, keeping it a two-possession game. And when Dorell Wright missed a jumper with 1:29 left, Beasley swooped in, got the rebound and scored, making it 98-92.
Exhale, Miami. The season will go until at least Tuesday.
Wade will opt to become a free agent after the season, and on the slim chance that this was his final home game in Miami, it was nothing short of scintillating.
"He just put it all on his shoulders," Pierce said. "And did a good job of it."
Trailing by six entering the final quarter and needing a rally to keep the season alive, Miami opened the fourth on a 25-8 run, fuelled mostly by Wade. He hit a pair of three-pointers about a minute apart, stopping after the second one to scream at his right hand, giving Miami an 85-80 lead.
"When his back is against the wall," Spoelstra said, "it's an utter defiance."
Miami played that way pretty much all day.
Garnett scored the opening basket, only to have Miami reel off the next 12 points. Richardson made his first four shots, three of them from three-point range, staking Miami to a 15-5 lead.
Wade scored 14 in the first, Richardson ended up with 13, and the Heat seemed well on their way, up 31-14 late in the opening quarter.
That duo combined for two in the second quarter, though, and Boston began chipping away.
Thanks in large part to Glen Davis tripping over his own feet and tumbling to the court in a green heap, Beasley had an alley-oop dunk with eight minutes left until halftime, putting Miami up 42-24.
The rest of the half was all Boston, which quickly turned the arena mood from celebratory to concerned. The Celtics outscored Miami 19-7 to close the second quarter, with the Heat making six turnovers and missing eight of their next nine shots after the Beasley dunk, and the lead was down to only 49-43 at the break.
"They played how they were supposed to play," Allen said.
In the third, Wade did the spectacular. Boston did the steady, which worked better.
Wade drove past Allen down the middle of the lane, dunked over the outstretched arm of Garnett and walked into the second row of seats, tying the game at 64 as the crowd roared.
But Garnett, Pierce, Allen and Rondo all had big baskets late in the third, and the Celtics took a 77-71 edge into the final 12 minutes.
But the fourth, thanks to Wade, was all Miami.
"I'm a rhythm player," Wade said. "And once I get in that rhythm, I think I can make any shot."
Each Heat player had a sheet of paper at his locker when he arrived Sunday, the words "Easy vs. Hard" typed across the top.
"Making everyone go to Boston," the sheet said, "is hard."
And it was.
Getting the Celtics to fly back to Miami will be even tougher.
NOTES: Richardson left the game in the second half with what the Heat called a bruised left hand. He wore a splint after the game on his left ring finger, but said he'll absolutely play in Game 5. ... Celeb watch: Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano sat next to Heat president Pat Riley (remember, Riles was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1967). Singer Gloria Estefan and rapper Common were also in the crowd. ... Rondo and Carlos Arroyo were assessed technicals for jawing at each other early in the third quarter.