MIAMI – Dwyane Wade watched the 3-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 said, “I was telling him he was hot.”

That hand — that player — had never been hotter in a postseason 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 defeated 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 3-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.”

The Celtics still lead the best-of-seven series 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.

Especially Wade.

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, 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 3-pointers, all coming in a 5-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 percent 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, 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, fueled by Wade. He hit a pair of 3-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 12 points. Richardson made his first four shots, three of them from 3-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.


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