Heat Scorch Kings Behind O’Neal, Williams
Miami 119, Sacramento 99
MIAMI, Jan. 22 (Ticker) -- Shaquille O'Neal and Jason Williams got the Miami Heat off a brief slide while setting the Sacramento Kings up for one.
O'Neal scored 27 points in just 28 minutes and Williams had a strong all-around game to lead the Heat to a 119-99 victory over the Kings, who have gotten off to a bad start on their road trip.
O'Neal had been struggling - he didn't score in the final four-plus minutes of Friday's loss to defending champion San Antonio - and is in the midst of the worst season of his career. A sprained ankle sidelined him for over a month and some have been wondering whether O'Neal is slowing down.
"The demise of Shaquille O'Neal has been greatly exaggerated," said Heat coach Pat Riley, who owes the franchise center $100 million over the next five years. "I can guarantee you that - and I coach him."
"You (the media) might have made him (O'Neal) mad," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "I think you all lit a fire under him. He's been playing well the last couple of games. We have to find him more. We came out trying to get him the ball early. He led us to victory."
O'Neal, who was 11-of-15 from the field and a respectable 5-of-8 from the line, was hot early as he hit his first five shots, leading the Heat to a season-high 37 points in the first quarter. And he was hot late, when he keyed a decisive spurt in the fourth quarter.
"Guys were looking for me tonight, and I think if they keep looking for me, I'll keep putting together games like this," O'Neal said.
"He's still just as big," Sacramento center Brad Miller said. "The way he plays, so long as he is out there on the court, he'll be able to dominate."
Leading, 95-89, with 9:44 to play, Miami went on a 13-4 run to send Sacramento to its second straight loss to open a six-game East Coast road trip. O'Neal scored six points in the surge, including a layup with 4:40 remaining that made it 108-93.
"Shaquille had his way inside with us, especially at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth," Kings coach Rick Adelman said.
Williams scored 19 points, added a season-high 11 assists with just one turnover and had a big part in an important run as well.
Miami closed the third quarter with an 11-3 spurt keyed by Williams, who had six points and an assist to give the Heat an 89-84 lead.
"J-Will is always running," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said. "We just have to run with him. Sometimes we just can't keep up. ... If we can run with him, he's going to find you."
On Saturday, Riley had called the season's first half a "41-game disappointment," even though the Heat own the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. That's why Sunday's uneven performance still left a smile on his face.
"The record pretty much tells it all," said Heat backup center Alonzo Mourning, who injured his right ankle late in the game. "We have to improve to get where we want to be. There's no science to it."
Peja Stojakovic scored 19 points - including 13 in the third quarter, when the Kings led by five with 5:01 left - and Mike Bibby had 17 for Sacramento, which made just 6-of-23 shots while being outscored, 30-15, in the fourth quarter. Sacramento turned the ball over 14 times leading to 21 points for Miami.
"When you are on the road, you can't turn the ball over, especially with a team like Miami," Stojakovic said. "Every time we turned the ball over or took a quick shot, they would score an easy bucket."
Wade - who was trying to become the first Heat player to score 30 or more points in four straight games - scored 22 points for Miami, which shot 60 percent (47-of-79). The Heat made a season-high 16 baskets in the first quarter en route to a 37-24 lead.