CHARLOTTE, N.C., Feb. 12 (Ticker) --
The return of rookie
was not enough to help the Charlotte Bobcats
contain Shaquille O'Neal
and the Miami Heat.
O'Neal scored 32 points and gathered 12 rebounds as the Heat
improved on their Eastern Conference-leading record with a 97-87
triumph over the Bobcats, who have lost five in a row.
NBA TV highlights from |
Earlier Friday, the Bobcats activated Okafor from the injured
list after the prized rookie missed five games with a sprained
left ankle. But the return of last June's second overall pick
may have been short-lived as Okafor re-injured the ankle midway
through the fourth quarter and did not return.
Okafor did not believe the injury would be as serious as the
"I'm walking around right now," Okafor said. "After the last
time, I was on crutches."
"You never know about these things until the next day, in terms
of how they feel and what kind of swelling you're dealing with,"
Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff added.
Despite scoring 13 points and grabbing seven boards, Okafor was
no match for the bigger O'Neal, who scored 10 points in both the
second and fourth quarters and eight in the decisive third
"We should all be so fortunate to have a weapon like the big
fellow," Bickerstaff said. "Not only did he make baskets, but
some of the passes he made to teammates were great. He is a guy
that makes a difference."
Charlotte carried a 40-38 advantage into the break. But with
the game tied at 53-53 with 5 1/2 minutes to go in the third
period, Miami went on an 18-4 run to take a 71-57 lead with 54
"We just had to get warm," O'Neal said. "They came out with a
lot of energy. A lot of teams come out with a lot of energy and
play way above their heads, and this team did the same thing in
the first half. The good thing about the NBA is, there are
"We battled," said Charlotte guard Brevin Knight,
who scored 17
points. "They are a good team with a great player inside. We
played them as tough as we could play them. Their guards hit
threes when they needed them. We didn't have enough to get to
Knight was kept out of the starting lineup by Bickerstaff after
oversleeping for practice Thursday.
The Bobcats climbed within 92-87 with 1:49 left on a jumper by
, who scored 14 points. But Charlotte did not score
again and Miami raised its record to a conference-best 38-14.
"We had more talent than they did," said Heat coach Stan Van
Gundy, who was disappointed with his team's effort. "It
certainly didn't come down to the team that played harder or
better. I thought (Charlotte) tried to play the game very hard,
but we did just enough to get by."
scored 14 of his 22 points in the third quarter and
added eight assists and Dwyane Wade
collected 11, seven and nine
rebounds for Miami, which has won five in a row and eight of
"The shots were going in tonight," Jones said. "I had some
great looks. When we move the basketball, we shoot a high
percentage, and I had some good, wide-open looks and I was able
to make a few."
"He was absolutely huge, just like he was (last game)," Van
Gundy said of Jones, who scored a season-high 24 points in an
overtime win at New York on Wednesday. "He and Shaq really
carried us tonight."
had 10 points and seven rebounds and Melvin Ely
pulled down 11 boards for the Bobcats, who have dropped five
straight and 22 of 25.
Charlotte trailed midway through the opening quarter but moved
ahead, 8-7, on a basket by Gerald Wallace
with 6:50 to go and
built a 34-26 lead - its biggest of the game - on a hook shot by
Ely with six minutes remaining in the second period.
In going 17-of-42 from the line, the teams set a league record
for worst combined free-throw percentage at 40.5 percent. The
previous mark of 41 percent was done by the Los Angeles Lakers
and Chicago on December 7, 1968.
A 46 percent free-throw shooter, O'Neal accounted for six of
Miami's 10 successful foul shots.
"Shaq was 6-for-15 and that's a higher percentage than the rest
of the team," Van Gundy said. "He carried us at the line