MIAMI, Dec. 27 (Ticker) -- Shaquille O'Neal
and Dwyane Wade
have led the
Miami Heat all season. Against the Atlanta Hawks, the duo
delivered yet again.
O'Neal scored 31 points and Wade added 27 and nine assists as
the Heat won their club-record 12th straight game, a 116-102
victory over the Hawks.
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The previous Miami record of 11 straight wins was held by the
1996-97 squad, a team that won a franchise-record 61 games and
reached the Eastern Conference finals.
"We're getting better every day," said O'Neal, who played
wearing a flak jacket under his jersey due to a sore back. "We
haven't blown anyone away yet but we're staying poised and
winning close games. I like what we're doing right now."
"It's hard enough to win three games in a row," Heat coach
Stan Van Gundy
said. "You get people gunning for you. I give our
team a lot of credit for continuing to do what they have done. It
is not easy."
One game after the much ballyhooed Christmas meeting between
O'Neal and his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, the star
center did not let up against Atlanta despite back pain that
O'Neal said first occurred in the game against the Lakers. He
borrowed a flak jacket from the Miami Dolphins which he
believes helped get him through Monday's game.
"My back was sore so I asked for a flak jacket and it worked
pretty well," O'Neal said. "I'm not hurt it's just sore. I
wanted to come out and be aggressive and take my mind off my
sore back. I'll probably wear it the rest of my career."
In the third quarter, O'Neal scored 13 points but the Hawks
still owned a 76-70 lead with 4:24 left when O'Neal went to the
bench because of foul trouble.
Just as he did against the Lakers when O'Neal fouled out, Wade
took contol of the game.
"I was questioning myself if I should go tonight with my knee,"
Wade said. "But I put it aside and said if Shaq can do it I can
do it. He came out and started off great and gave us energy and
Wade scored six of his 18 third-quarter points in Miami's 18-4
spurt to close the period and the Heat never trailed thereafter.
Atlanta's Antoine Walker
, who scored 16 points, cut the Hawks'
deficit to 106-100 with a pair of free throws with just over two
minutes remaining in the contest, but Christian Laettner
five straight points for Miami.
Laettner finished with 11 points.
"This is the best team in basketball right now, I think, and
their record indicates that," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson
"Twelve in a row is no joke. This is a for-real team. We just
ran into the hottest team in basketball tonight. We held our own
for a while but they were the better team."
The Hawks bench provided 49 points with Peja Drobnjak
and Tony Delk
scoring 16 points apiece.
added 13 points off the bench in his first game for
Atlanta. He was acquired from Houston on Friday in exchange
for Jon Barry