MIAMI, Dec. 13 (Ticker) --
With his running mate down, Shaquille O'Neal
put in a vintage performance.
O'Neal scored a season-high 40 points to help the Miami Heat
overcome Dwyane Wade's
ankle injury to post a 106-83 victory
over the Washington Wizards.
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Wade, Miami's star second-year point guard whom O'Neal has
nicknamed "Flash," left the game with three minute left in the
second quarter because of a mild left ankle sprain. He did not
"My ankle went one way and my body went another," said Wade, who
missed two games earlier this season with a left ankle sprain.
"It was more a precaution. ... The best thing was for me to
"Flash told me that he wanted me to get 40 or 50 points," O'Neal
said. "I told him I would take care of him."
In his first season in Miami, O'Neal had notched only one game
with at least 30 points but dominated the Wizards inside in this
one. The 325-pound center grabbed 12 rebounds, sank 10-of-16
free throws and blocked five shots.
"They were not doubling me tonight, and I was really
aggressive," O'Neal said. "When I came here my goal was to keep
everyone involved. I am not here just to get my points every
night. I learned that philosophy from Phil (Jackson). Tonight,
we were short one guy, and I told Flash that I had his back."
It was the first 40-plus point performance by a Heat player
since Alonzo Mourning
had 43 against New Jersey on February 23,
"I told my teammates that I wanted it tonight," said O'Neal, who
had nine dunks. "I told them Flash wanted me to take over the
game. Coach (Stan) Van Gundy was gracious enough to keep
calling my plays. I told him I wanted it tonight. Whenever I
am scoring like that, and whenever I am hitting free throws like
that, I want Coach to call my play. I was very happy he
granted my wishes tonight."
"I think the key to the game tonight is that I now have had two
and a half months to work with Shaq on his post moves, and with
my expertise down low, his game is coming along," Van Gundy
joked. "He was fabulous tonight. We got Shaq the ball, and he
Miami (16-7) has won five games in a row and secured first place
in the Southeast Division - and the best record in the Eastern
Conference - over their new divisional rival.
"This is one of our first solid wins in a long time," O'Neal
said. "It was nice that it was against a team above .500 that
is right at the top with us."
Washington's "big three" of Antawn Jamison
, Gilbert Arenas
was held to a combined 42 points on 15-of-57
shooting. The trio had averaged almost 63 points entering the
"I think we got good looks," Hughes said. "We can't shoot the
ball like that and expect to win. We may have taken a a few bad
ones, just trying to get something going. But for the most
part, we had decent looks."
The Heat held the Wizards to 36 percent (31-of-86) shooting,
improving to 10-0 when holding opponents to less than 40
Miami never trailed in the second half, and Washington never got
closer then seven down the stretch. An 11-2 Miami run midway
through the final quarter - featuring two monster dunks by
O'Neal - turned the game into a rout.
"I'm just happy and excited for Shaq to come out and play a
dominant game like he said he would," Wade said.
"He was their first, second and third option," Hughes said of
scored 16 off the bench for the Wizards, but was
plagued by foul trouble - and Shaq.
"There's no game plan against Shaq," said Brown, who was
suspended one game last week for conduct detrimental to the
team. "Anybody who tried to tell you that there is, is crazy.
... If you give any ground, then it's a dunk."