Shaq, Heat Top 76ers For Fourth Straight Win
Miami 112, Philadelphia 105
PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 16 (Ticker) -- An early Shaq attack opened up all sorts of options for the Miami Heat.
Dwyane Wade scored 31 points and the sharpshooting Heat made nine 3-pointers as they rode a dominant performance by Shaquille O'Neal to their fourth straight win, a 112-105 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
"We wanted to power the ball inside," said O'Neal, who made 9-of-17 shots. "We did that and the whole team played good tonight. We played good defense. The team is playing pretty well right now."
The porous defense of the 76ers had no answers as they repeatedly surrendered easy baskets to O'Neal, drives by Wade and uncontested 3-pointers by their teammates, who made 9-of-20 from behind the arc.
"It all starts with Shaq," 76ers forward Kyle Korver said. "We're all so conscious of him, where he is at and trying to double-team him. We're trying to help, we are trying to front him, trying to do everything. It all just rolls off him."
O'Neal made four of his first five shots as Miami bolted to a 21-11 lead. The Heat held a 30-21 advantage after one period, draining 12-of-17 shots.
"When you play a team like Miami, you cannot start the way we started," Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said. "You put yourself in such a hole, and you have to climb out of it. You can't do that against a good team. They space the floor, they have a great post player. ... Then they spread the floor with their shooters."
"We wanted to come out early and get established," Wade said. "That's our game plan, to established the low post and open everything for us for the rest of the night."
A pair of 3-pointers by unheralded rookie Gerald Fitch and another by James Posey helped build the lead to 47-31 midway through the second period. Miami settled for a 63-51 halftime advantage but built the lead to 77-57 midway through the third quarter.
The Sixers trailed, 89-74, entering the fourth quarter but rallied behind Allen Iverson, who scored 35 points. His two free throws cut the deficit to 95-90 with 6:06 to play.
O'Neal was double-teamed and found Antoine Walker for an open 3-pointer. After a free throw by Iverson, Wade drove for a dunk and added another slam for a 102-91 bulge with 3:51 left.
"Coach called a timeout and told us to keep our composure and keep playing," O'Neal said. "We had a lot of turnovers and a lot of silly mistakes."
"We were trying to survive," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "The game got to that point. We had a 20-point lead, they cut it to five. We made a couple of plays and we got out of here."
Another 3-pointer by Walker sealed it at 107-97 with 1:56 to go.
"Antoine is capable of having an outrageous night," Riley said. "I was going to sub for him but I just wanted to get him one more possession. We allowed Antoine to bring it up a couple of times. He hit a three and I kept him in the game."
"Walker's threes were probably the difference," Cheeks said
The Sixers may have inched closer if Iverson was not shooting free throws like he was O'Neal. An 80 percent foul shooter, Iverson suffered a sprained left thumb late in the first quarter and it appeared to affect him as he made just 7-of-16 from the line, establishing a career high for misses.
"They knock Shaq about his free throws," Iverson said. "I'm the one that needs to be getting knocked."
"He was going to play no matter what," Cheeks said. "If it was broke he was going to play anyway. He'd get it taped up and go out there. It may have been a factor on his foul shots."
Walker scored 16 points and Gary Payton added 12 for the Heat, who shot 53 percent (41-of-78) and held a 49-35 advantage on the glass. Miami improved to 3-0 under Riley.
"We're trying to develop as a team," Walker said. "Everybody is just trying to do their part and do their role. We got 10-12 guys who can play. We're just trying to get back to playing the basketball that we can play."
Chris Webber scored 23 points and Korver added 11 for the Sixers, who had a four-game winning streak snapped.
"We wanted to make a little statement, but it didn't happen," Korver said. "It was all about pride. We didn't want to get blown out on our home court, or on TV. We fought back, but we're not taking any moral victory out of losing to Miami by seven. We wanted to win this game. "