MIAMI, Dec. 21 (Ticker) --
The absence of superstar Shaquille O'Neal
not enough to keep the Miami Heat from setting a record for the
best start in team history.
scored 12 of his 33 points in the decisive third
quarter and dished out 11 assists as the Heat extended their
winning streak to nine games with a 108-100 triumph over the
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Although O'Neal missed the game with an injured left calf, Miami
improved to 20-7, its best mark after 27 games. The Heat need
a victory at Sacramento on Thursday to match the second-longest
winning streak in team history, a 10-game stretch from Feb.
13-March 1, 1998.
"When there is no Shaq, the ball certainly gets driven a lot
more than shooting jumpers," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said.
"However, we held them in the second half."
Van Gundy said he was pleased with the way the Heat opened the
floor and kept the Celtics wondering who would get the next
"Without (O'Neal), the important thing is that the ball had to
keep moving," Van Gundy said. "It could not be a stand-around
Picking up the slack for the injured O'Neal, Udonis Haslem
18 points and a career-high 17 rebounds and Eddie Jones
scored 17 points despite being hampered by a pulled left groin.
"My mind-set from the tip was to take the ball inside and pick
up as much of the slack as I could for the big guy,' Haslem
said. "I was definitely going to crash the boards and be a
presense in there."
Van Gundy referred to Haslem's effort as fabulous.
"Udonis is a worker," Van Gundy said. "He is young and can play
the whole game, and that is what he did."
After Ricky Davis
' 3-pointer tied the score, 76-76, with 4:48 to
go in the third quarter, the Heat responded with a 7-0 run to
take the lead for good.
During that stretch, Wade collected one of his season-high four
steals and raced to the other end of the floor before Davis
knocked him to ground and was whistled for a flagrant-2 foul, an
"That was the longest two seconds of my life while I was
airborne," Wade said of the hit. "It shook me up, but once I got
up I realized all the pieces were still there and I was OK."
Davis said there was no intent to injure Wade and Boston coach
Doc Rivers questioned the call.
"I just made a hustle play and tried to make a good block," said
Davis, who was tossed with 3:26 left in the third quarter. "I
was definitely surprised by the ejection."
"I thought he made a play on the ball," Rivers said. "The last I
knew, you were allowed to try and block a shot."
Wade hit 1-of-2 free throws and scored the final four points of
the quarter for Miami, which scored 19 points off of 19
turnovers by Boston.
scored 25 points and rookie Al Jefferson
and nine rebounds for Boston. Davis chipped in 12 points off
the bench and was one of six Celtics in double figures.
None of that was enough for Rivers, whose team shot 55 percent
from the floor in the first half but fell victim to Miami's
second straight solid defensive effort in the second half.
"I just felt we got completely outworked," Rivers said. "We had
a golden opportunity to win tonight without Shaq; we just didn't
take advantage of it."