O’Neal Scores 31 as Heat Win Fifth Straight
Miami 115, Seattle 106
MIAMI, Feb. 25 (Ticker) -- It took longer than expected, but Shaquille O'Neal and the Miami Heat are exerting their inside dominance.
The Heat scored a season-high 84 points in the paint thanks in large part to O'Neal's season-high 31 and posted a 115-106 triumph over the Seattle SuperSonics.
O'Neal vowed to be more assertive after the All-Star break and the big man delivered on his promise by making his first 14 shots from the floor, many of them layups or dunks. The eight-time field goal percentage champion and this season's leader finished by making 15-of-16 shots from the floor.
"I've seen many of those (inside efforts) before. It's all about taking high-percentage shots and playing with energy," O'Neal said. "When they tried to double me, I looked to the other guys and they produced."
Miami coach Pat Riley said O'Neal did things that he hadn't seen in a couple of years.
"He's (out there) taking two or three people to the rim," he said. "The defenses are starting to double, and he's picking people apart."
He was not the only Miami player attacking the basket as Dwyane Wade scored nine of his 26 points in the first quarter, when the Heat shot 67 percent (16-of-24).
"It was pick your poison," Wade said of Seattle's inability to stop Miami in the paint. "They tried different schemes but we had the answers tonight. The big fella (O'Neal) had an unbelievable passing game to go along with the scoring. That was a big factor also."
"We just kept pounding it and pounding it inside," said Heat forward Udonis Haslem, who added 16 points. "We took advantage of their size and took it to the basket. Everything was just clicking."
O'Neal scored 10 points in the second quarter and James Posey added eight of his 13 in the session as the Heat took a 66-48 lead into the locker room. The advantage eventually swelled to 89-68 on O'Neal's dunk with 5:52 remaining in the third.
Seattle responded by going on a 20-4 surge to close the period. Playing his first game for the Sonics since being acquired from Cleveland on Thursday, Mike Wilks scored eight of his season-high 12 points during the charge.
"The guys told me not to be afraid to shoot the ball and make things happen. They showed a lot of patience with me and gave me confidence," said Wilks, who flew into Miami just hours before the game. "I was comfortable out there. I played simple basketball. You just want to grow and build (with a new team)."
Seattle coach Bob Hill was very pleased with what he saw from Wilks.
"He comes into a totally unfamiliar situation, has no practice time to learn the system and does what he did out there tonight. That was great," Hill said. "He brought some very positive energy to our team."
Rashard Lewis, who finished with 25 points, added a pair of 3-pointers in the run for the Sonics, who pulled within 101-100 on a layup by Wilks with 6:22 to go.
"We didn't quit and fought back," Hill said. "We put ourselves into a position where, if we make a shot here or there, we have a chance to win."
The Heat scored the next six points on two dunks by Wade and another by O'Neal. Chris Wilcox, who scored 14 points for Seattle, responded with a follow shot, but Wade countered with a layup to make it 109-102 with 2:19 remaining.